00 9/3/2009 2:31 PM

Updating the thread-
Posted 8/25 in BENEDICT XVI NEWS

It was always obvious that the Pope's trip to Bagnoregio during the visit to Viterbo was his way of paying homage to St. Bonaventure, but it is most gratifying to find out that Robert Moynihan himself was a scholar on Bonaventure and has thus written this instructive essay:

Benedict XVI and Bonaventure:
The Pope's trip to Bagnoregio
is more significant than it seems

By Robert Moynihan

ROME, AUG. 24, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Sometimes, there is more to a papal trip than meets the eye.

And that is the case with an upcoming trip of Benedict XVI to the small Italian town of Bagnoregio, the birthplace of St. Bonaventure.

In two weeks, on Sept. 6, the Pope will go out of Rome to visit Bagnoregio and Viterbo.

Viterbo, about 65 miles north of Rome, or just an hour by car, is well-known as the place where papal conclaves were born.

Until 1271, the gathering of cardinals for the election was not called a "conclave" ("con" meaning "with" and "clavis" meaning "a key") -- a closed meeting in a place locked "with a key."

After the death of Pope Clement IV in 1268, the cardinals meeting in Viterbo did not elect anyone for almost three years. Finally, the city officials locked all of them in a meeting room and gave them only bread and water to eat. Soon after, they elected Pope Gregory X. He then made it Church law that papal elections would take place in a conclave.

Benedict XVI will travel to Viterbo by helicopter from the papal summer villa at Castel Gandolfo, south of Rome.

But on his way home, he will stop in Bagnoreggio.

Why stop in such a little, seemingly unimportant town?

Because St. Bonaventure was born there in 1217.

Still, the Pope does not stop at the birthplace of every important saint. He would not have time to do so. So, why is he taking time to stop in Bonaventure's place of birth?

For the answer, we have to look into the Pope's own past, and there we find something rather interesting.

We find that Bonaventure was one of the two major intellectual influences on Pope Benedict's entire theological formation. (The other influence? St. Augustine.)

In Germany, scholars must write two dissertations. The first, as in the United States, is to receive a doctoral degree (a Ph.D.). The second, called the 'Habilitationsschrift', is to qualify for a professorial post.

And the young Joseph Ratzinger, in the mid-1950s, wrote this second, postdoctoral thesis, on ... St. Bonaventure, and his understanding of history.

Press accounts will say that the Pope is "scheduled to venerate the 'holy arm' of the saint, which is kept in Bagnoregio's cathedral" (the rest of St. Bonaventure's body is buried in France).

But Benedict is venerating also the deep wisdom of Bonaventure's vision of Christian revelation, and in so doing "making contact" with one of the central concerns of his own personal theological vision.

In this sense, if we can understand what Benedict learned from Bonaventure, we can understand more clearly what Benedict is trying to do now, in his pontificate, to lead the Church through this complicated period in history.

Benedict XVI himself gave us an idea of this intellectual background in a speech he gave to a group of scholars several years ago, before he was Pope.

He said this: "My doctoral dissertation was about the notion of the people of God in St. Augustine. ... Augustine was in dialogue with Roman ideology, especially after the occupation of Rome by the Goths in 410, and so it was very fascinating for me to see how in these different dialogues and cultures he defines the essence of the Christian religion. He saw Christian faith, not in continuity with earlier religions, but rather in continuity with philosophy as a victory of reason over superstition. ..."

So, we might argue that one major step in Ratzinger's own theological formation was to understand Christianity as "in continuity with philosophy" and as "a victory of reason over superstition."

Then Ratzinger took a second step. He studied Bonaventure.

"My postdoctoral work was about St. Bonaventure, a Franciscan theologian of the 13th century," Ratzinger continued. "I discovered an aspect of Bonaventure's theology not found in the previous literature, namely, his relation with the new idea of history conceived by Joachim of Fiore in the 12th century.

"Joachim saw history as progression from the period of the Father (a difficult time for human beings under the law), to a second period of history, that of the Son (with more freedom, more openness, more brotherhood), to a third period of history, the definitive period of history, the time of the Holy Spirit.

"According to Joachim, this was to be a time of universal reconciliation, reconciliation between east and west, between Christians and Jews, a time without the law (in the Pauline sense), a time of real brotherhood in the world.

"The interesting idea which I discovered was that a significant current among the Franciscans was convinced that St. Francis of Assisi and the Franciscan Order marked the beginning of this third period of history, and it was their ambition to actualize it; Bonaventure was in critical dialogue with this current."

So, we might argue, Ratzinger drew from Bonaventure a conception of human history as unfolding in a purposeful way, toward a specific goal, a time of deepened spiritual insight, an "age of the Holy Spirit."

Where classical philosophy spoke of the eternity of the world, and therefore of the cyclical "eternal return" of all reality, Bonaventure, following Joachim, condemned the concept of the eternity of the world, and defended the idea that history was a unique and purposeful unfolding of events which would never return, but which would come to a conclusion.

History had meaning.

History was related to, and oriented toward, meaning -- toward the Logos ... toward Christ.

This is not to say that Ratzinger - or Bonaventure - made any of the specific interpretations of Joachim his own. It is to say that Ratzinger, like Bonaventure, entered into "critical dialogue" with his overall conception -- that history had a shape and a meaning -- that he, like Bonaventure, took it quite seriously.

I have some personal insight into how seriously Ratzinger took these matters.

My own doctoral research was on the influence of the thought of Joachim on the early Franciscans.

When I first met Joseph Ratzinger, in the fall of 1984, I told him I was studying his book on St. Bonaventure with interest, and he replied: "Ah! You're the only one in Rome who has read that book of mine."

Then, later, he commented to me that the liberation theology of the Brazilian Franciscan Father Leonardo Boff was a "modern form" of Joachimism - a desire to see within history a new ordering of human society.

So I am persuaded that Ratzinger took his research into Bonaventure quite seriously.

Ratzinger received his degree on Feb. 21, 1957, at nearly 30 years of age, but not without controversy.

The academic committee judging his work actually rejected the "critical" part of his thesis, so he was obliged to cut and edit it, and present the "historical" part only, centered on the analysis of the relation between St. Bonaventure and Joachim of Flora.

Ratzinger's professor, Michael Schmaus, thought Ratzinger's interpretation of Bonaventure's concept of revelation showed "a dangerous modernism that had to lead to the subjectivization of the concept of revelation," as Ratzinger himself recalls in his autobiography, Milestones: Memoirs 1927-1977. (Ratzinger felt, and still feels, that Schmaus's criticisms were not valid.)

What was it that Ratzinger found in Bonaventure that aroused such controversy?

For Ratzinger, Bonaventure's concept of revelation did not mean what it does for us today, that is, "all the revealed contents of the faith."

In Ratzinger's view, for Bonaventure, "revelation" always connoted the idea of action -- that is, revelation means the act by which God reveals himself, and not simply the result of this act.

Why is this important?

Ratzinger wrote in Milestones: "Because this is so, the concept of 'revelation' always implies a receiving subject: where there is no one to perceive 'revelation,' no re-vel-ation has occurred, because no veil has been removed. By definition, revelation requires a someone who apprehends it."

And why does this matter?

"These insights," Ratzinger continued, "gained through my reading of Bonaventure, were later on very important for me at the time of the conciliar discussion on revelation, Scripture, and tradition. Because, if Bonaventure is right, then revelation precedes Scripture and becomes deposited in Scripture but is not simply identical with it."

"This in turn means that revelation is always something greater than what is merely written down. And this again means that there can be no such thing as pure sola scriptura ["by Scripture alone"], because an essential element of Scripture is the Church as understanding subject, and with this the fundamental sense of tradition is already given."

In essence, what Ratzinger drew from Bonaventure modified and completed what he had drawn from Augustine.

If Augustine's thought emphasized the continuity of Christianity with classical philosophy, and the "reasonableness" of Christian faith over against pagan superstition, Bonaventure's thought emphasized the contrast between Christianity and classical philosophy, indeed, condemned the futility of classical philosophy, with its embrace of the concept of the eternity of the world and the "eternal return" of all things, because it lacked the revealed truth of a divine "actor."

Ratzinger suggested this in the forward to his work on Bonaventure: "Has not the ‘Hellenization' of Christianity, which attempted to overcome the scandal of the particular by a blending of faith and metaphysics, led to a development in a false direction? Has it not created a static style of thought which cannot do justices to the dynamism of the biblical style?"

Even today, if we go to the last chapter of the Pope's recent book, Jesus of Nazareth, we find the metaphysical terminology that presupposes an ontology of "person as relation" [How I love this central concept in Ratzinger's thought! And that it starts with God himself as Trinity, so that man by himself is meaningless without his relationship to God and to other human beings] that I believe is the "golden thread" throughout all of Ratzinger's work, from his first book on Augustine, begun in 1953, through his "habilitation thesis" on Bonaventure (1956) to his recent Jesus of Nazareth (2007).

Ratzinger is saying that Christian revelation must always transcend reason, though it does not, and must not, contradict it.

When Benedict XVI visits Bagnoregio, then, he will be, in a sense, returning to the source of his own deepest intellectual struggles, to the place where he came fully to understand the newness of the Christian faith, and how that faith, that revealed truth, is at one and the same time in harmony with, and at total opposition to, the "reason" which was the highest good of classical philosophy.

This makes the trip to Bagnoregio far more than another papal trip; it is a trip into Ratzinger's own intellectual and spiritual past, and into the core of his intellectual and spiritual vision.

Robert Moynihan is founder and editor of the monthly magazine Inside the Vatican, and author of the book Let God's Light Shine Forth: the Spiritual Vision of Pope Benedict XVI (2005, Doubleday).

In February last year, an Italian edition of Prof. Ratzinger's Habilitation dissertation on St. Bonaventure was published.

Fr. Ratzinger's book on
St. Bonaventure to be
presented in Rome on Feb. 26

Translated from
the Italian service of

ROME, Feb. 12, 2008 (ZENIT.org) - The Italian edition of Joseph Ratzinger's 1957 'Habilitation' thesis on St. Bonaventure will be presented at the Antonianum Pontifical University in Rome on Feb. 26

"My post-doctoral work was centered on St. Bonaventure, a Franciscan theologian of the 13th century," Cardinal Ratzinger recalled in his self-presentation speech when he became a member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences on November 13, 2000. "To discover an aspect of St. Bonaventure's theology that, as far as I new, had no literary precedent - and that was his new idea of history."

Ratzinger worked on the thesis in 1957 to get his 'Habilitation' or license to be a professor at a German university.

The academic presentation, which will start at 4 p.m., will be presided by Cardinal Claudio Hummes, prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy.

The round table discussion, to be moderated by Prof. Barbara Faes de Mottoni of the National Research Center, will have the following participants: Mons. Angelo Amato, secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; Prof. Paolo Vian of the Vatican Apostolic Library (brother of Osservatore Romano editor Gianmaria Vian); and Fr. Johannes Baptist Freyer, Rector of the Antonianum.

Fr. Pietro Messa, president of the university's School for Medieval Studies, and Franciscans who collaborated in the publication of the volume, explained to ZENIT that current interest in the Pope's book 50 years after he wrote his thesis, was that "to understand the thinking of Pope Benedict XVI, which characterizes his Pontificate so much, it is not possible to ignore his early formation."

In his speech to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in 2000, Cardinal Ratzinger recalled that in the 12th century, Joachim of Fiore had understood history as 'the progression from the age of the Fathr (a difficult time for human beings under the law), to a second historical age, that of the Son (with more freedom, directness and brotherhood), to a third age of history, its definitive period, the time of the Holy Spirit."

"According to Joachim," Ratzinger said, "this ought to be the time of universal reconciliation, between Easy and West, between Christians and Jews, an era without laws (in the Pauline sense), a time of true fraternity int he world. The interesting idea was to discover that a significant current of thought among Franciscans was convinced that St. Francis of Assisi and the Franciscan Order marked the beginning of this third era in history, and it was their ambition to actualize it. Bonaventure kept up a critical dialog with this current."

Fr. Messa said that young Fr. Ratzinger's work "was subsequently taken up in many studies on the theology of St. Bonaventure, ass indicated in the bibliography that is an appendix to this volume, which indicates the importance it has in studies on Bonaventure."

"Thanks to this text," he said, "research has progressed and some conclusions have changed because of this progress, but also because wee can now benefit from many more critical references compared to those available to Ratzinger in 1957."

As for the role of the thesis in the formation of benedict XVI, Fr. Messa said "there are many elements found in this study which can be re-encountered in the Pope's Magisterium", like the centrality of Christ that St. Bonaventure maintained, which is fully present in the Pope's teachings and illustrated by his book on Jesus."

When asked whether through St. Bonaventure, Franciscanism would recover an important role in the exercise of Benedict's Papacy, Fr. Messa recalled the words of the great French theologian Yves Congar: "It was precisely from this study and the problem of the relationship between the local Church and the universal Church, which was much debated after Vatican-II, Congar wrote: 'Joseph Ratzinger, who has made us note, quite wright I think, some differences between Bonaventure and Thomas Aquinas, gives a lot of importance to the role that the Pope occupies in Bonaventurian mysticism because he was Franciscan."

In view of these words, Fr. Messa said "it is more than legitimate to ask in what way such a Franciscan aspect has characterized his concept and exercise of the papacy."

"Reading various writings and addresses of his, the hypothesis of a positive answer is reinforced," he continued. "Therefore, one should not wonder - rather, it becomes full understandable - when Benedict XVI says that to understand the Petrine ministry, one must go back to St. Francis."

Another PRF post from February 2008:

The Pope initiates a new dawn
of Bonaventurian thought

By Hugh McNichol
Feb. 15, 2008

McNichol appears to be the first Anglophone writer to comment on the recent interest in St. Bonaventure raised in Italy by the 50th anniversary reissue of Joseph Ratzinger's 1957 Habilitation thesis on St. Bonaventure.

ROME – We do not frequently hear much about Saint Bonaventure. However, he is a noted Doctor of the Church and a pupil in the schools of Saint Thomas Aquinas and Saint Francis of Assisi. His writings have influenced the Scholastic age of the Church and perhaps the thoughts and pontificate of Benedict XVI.

Today the ZENIT news agency announced a new translation of then Joseph Ratzinger’s treatise on Saint Bonaventure. From the early introductions, it seems the evolving papacy of Pope Benedict XVI is incorporating insights from Bonaventure into our modern Church, while at the same time emphasizing the need to develop global harmony.

If we consider the ministry of Benedict XVI since his canonical election, perhaps the phrase used to describe Saint Bonaventure by St. Francis of Assisi is most appropriate, ”O buona ventura!”.

The good fortune exclaimed by Francis regarding Bonaventure is indeed good fortune for the life of the Universal Church. In Bonaventurian, theology there is a great appreciation of the desire to achieve harmony and unity among disparate peoples, Christian’s contra Judaism, Platonists contra Neo-Platonist, and so on.

In all of his writings and actions, Bonaventure maintained the notion that there is an evolution constantly developing in terms of human harmony. Benedict XVI it seems also advocates such a cosmology of thought.

In the pastoral activities of Benedict, the Church has witnessed the nascent dawn of the age of reconciliation and harmony, while rooted in Catholic tradition. However, it seems the papal epistemology of harmony concentrates very heavily on the teachings and lifestyle of Saint Francis of Assisi and the interpretations of Saint Bonaventure.

So far, in the Benedictine papacy the movement towards ideological harmony and theological compromise is far from what was expected of Cardinal Ratzinger.

Benedict XVI has issued a paternal call to the great religions of the world to seek out and discuss common beliefs, called for restored conversations on Christian/Jewish and Christian/Islamic dialogues and has even sought to heal the great schism between East and West within our own Catholicism.

His theological demeanor is a truly welcome approach to religious harmony and global peace and sanctification through a spiritual foundation based upon the transcendent law of Christian love as compared to an institutional formality of rites and rituals.

Even in restoring the use of the Mass of Blessed John XXIII, the Holy Father seems to be indicating that there is indeed a sacramental unity that transcends ritual. and that fact is what is critically important.

In the Bonaventure thought there is a stage of harmony and universal peace that takes place in the life of the Church. Truly, in our Catholic world we are experiencing a definitive message from the Successor of Saint Peter that calls the Catholic world, and indeed all peoples to an era of cooperation and understanding.

O buona ventura! Benedict XVI indeed is a herald of the new age of restored humanity in the Holy Spirit.