00 9/3/2009 2:32 PM

Posted 8/25/09 in BENEDICT XVI NEWS:


These posts from the PRF in February 2008 are translations of articles carried by the OR on the subject. The main article was by Mons. Amato, now the Prefect of the Congregation for the Cuases of Sainthood:

The Feb. 27, 2008, issue of L'Osservatore Romano carries three articles taken from the lectures given Tuesday afternoon in an academic proceeding at the Antonianum Pontifical University, for the presentation of Joseph Ratzinger's book St. Bonaventure: The theology of history, published in a new edition by Edizioni Porziuncola in cooperation with the university's Superior School for Medieval Studies. It marks the Golden Jubilee of its first publication in Germany.

The Page 1 teaser to the articles printed in the inside pages reads:
"It is a text - that was part of a much larger work - presented by the author as his post-doctoral thesis at the University of Munich in 1957 to obtain 'Habilitation' (formal qualification) as a university lecturer".

Towards Vatican II,
thinking of Bonaventure

By Mons. Angelo Amato
Secretary, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
Translated from the
the 2/27/08 issue of

Benedict XVI's cultural knowledge is wide and multiple. His bibliography proves it. His theological interests cover the entire area of Christian doctrine (cfr Introduction to Christianity and The Ratzinger Report).

From his younger days, in addition to his own scholarly research, he has been called on to answer questions from the church community itself and from his ministry.

The Ariadne's thread for a first review of the rich Ratzingerian bibliography could be chronological. Going through time, we find it divided into four great periods: his theological preparation, his participation in Vatican-II, his activities as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and his Magisterium as the Supreme Pontiff of the Church of Christ.

But the fundamental concern of this great theological production has been unique: to remind those who are inclined to think only of the present and the future of that indispensable link to tradition and the living center of history, which is Christ and his church.

His research on St. Bonaventure takes place almost at the very beginning of his theological career, and it is well described in his autobiography (Milestones).

In it, he informs us, for instance, that in the summer of 1950, he was given the opportunity to participate in a contest for a research on St. Augustine. The topic chosen by Prof. Gottlieb Soehngen, who had great respect for his student Ratzinger, was "The People and House of God in the doctrine of St. Augustine on the Church".

To prepare it, he was greatly helped by his readings of the Fathers of the Church and by Henri de Lubac's book, Catholicism, which dealt with the faith as an experience that is thought and lived in community.

For De Lubac, moreover, since faith, by its very nature, is also hope, it should invest the whole of history and cannot be limited to the individual promise of private beatitude.

Another reading which was significant in that period was Corpus Mysticum, also by De Lubac, who disclosed to the young scholar a new way of understanding the unity between the Church and the Eucharist.

After passing his doctorate exams brilliantly in July 1953, the young Ratzinger prepared next to write a post-doctoral dissertation for his 'Habilitation' that would allow him to be a university lecturer.

Since his previous research had been Patristic in nature, Gottlieb Soehngen decided that the dissertation for Habilitation should turn to the Middle Ages. After St. Augustine, it seemed natural to him that the young scholar should devote his attention to St. Bonaventure, passing from an ecclesiological concern to one of fundamental theology, that of revelation, to be exact.

At that time, there was a great debate about the idea of the history of salvation which involved a new perspective on the idea of revelation - to be understood no longer as the communication of some truths to reason, but as the historical action of God in which the truth is revealed freely.

There was no lack of difficulties to bring this work to a happy end. While his adviser, Prof. Soehngen, was immediately enthusiastic over the finished thesis, the other adviser, Prof. Michael Schmaus, considered it unsatisfactory.

In recounting this episode, Ratzinger notes that there were at least three factors in play. First of all, he had not entrusted himself to the guidance of Schmaus who considered himself a specialist in the Middle Ages. Next, in Munich, the investigation into this question had remained frozen for some time, and had not received any of the new perspectives that had developed elsewhere in the meantime, especially in Franciscan circles (Bonaventure was a Franciscan). So Ratzinger's direct criticism provoked Schmaus's forceful rejection.

But the opposition was more substantial, because the young scholar had found out that in Bonaventure, and in general, with the theologians of the 13th century, the concept of revelation as simply the ensemble of revealed contents was unthinkable. In medieval language, revelation indicated action, and more precisely, it defined the act by which God manifests himself to man, not the objectified result of that act.

Moreover, the concept of revelation always implied that there was someone receiving the revelation.

"These insights, gained through my reading of Bonaventure, were later on very important for me at the time of the Conciliar discussion on revelation, Scripture and trad. 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 greater than something that is merely written down. And this again means that there can be no such thing as pure sole Scriptura, because an essential element of Scripture is the Church as understanding subject, and with this the fundamental sense of tradition is already given" (p.109, Milestones).

In any case, the obstacle was overcome when Ratzinger realized that the last part of his rejected dissertation, dedicated to Bonaventure's theology of history, had passed Schmaus without objections and was autonomous in itself. Therefore, he restructured the dissertation to limit himself to this and presented it again.

The public session for the Habilitation (at which the candidate would defend his dissertation) took place - not without passionate discussion between Soehngen and Schmaus - on Feb. 21, 1957, at which the candidate successfully earned his Habilitation.

Commenting years later in his autobiography on this rather difficult episode, Cardinal Ratzinger said it made him "resolve not to agree easily to the rejection of dissertations or Habilitation theses but whenever possible, to take the part of the weaker party."

What was the innovative contribution that Ratzinger recognized after some time in his work on Bonaventure's Collationes in Exaemeron? Up till then, it had been maintained that Bonaventure had no interests in the ideas of Joachim of Fiore. Ratzinger's work showed for the first time that Bonaventure, in his work on the six days of creation (Exaemeron), had minutely confronted Joachim's ideas and sought to assimilate whatever was useful of it to integrate it into Church canon.

Beyond the dynamic concept of revelation, the study on Bonaventure's theology of history also showed Ratzinger an original way to reach an understanding of Christian eschatology.

But there was a lasting consequence that Bonaventure left in the mentality of Ratzinger, who would never have accepted - since it is contrary to the eschatological thinking of the New Testament - the Franciscan assumption that there would be the advent of a final era of the poor on earth, just immediately preceding history's entry into God's eternity.

Long before liberation theology, Ratzinger already rejected that medieval anticipation of a liberationist eschatology.

In conclusion, his knowledge of the Fathers of the Church and of the great medieval theological tradition, and dialog with contemporary culture, have been the ever present coordinates in the mens of the theologian Ratzinger - during his participation in the second Vatican Council as well as in the preparation of the numerous documents at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which he led as Prefect from 1982 to 2005.

In that service, he had to face, on the one hand, numerous challenges coming from mistaken ideologies, insufficient methodological procedures, and ambiguous doctrinal interpretations, while on the other hand, he promoted clarificatory orientations and guidelines of great relevance in Christology (Dominus Iesus), ecclesiology (Communioni notio), and anthropology (Donum vitae).

As Supreme Pontiff, he continues his theological magisterium not only through his encyclicals on the theological virtues - Deus caritas est and Spe Salvi - but above all through the work JESUS OF NAZARETH, in which his story of Christ is an innovative and essential contribution to Biblical and ecclesial Christology.

The second article is by historian by Paolo Vian [brother of the OR editor], who situates Ratzinger's work in the context of understanding medieval theology and how its useful elements are carried over into our time:

Without tradition, theology is
a tree uprooted from its bedrock

By Paolo Vian
Translated from
the 2/27/08 issue of

"For the full and objective understanding of the spiritual history of Italy in the 13th century, we cannot, ever!, dissociate the two great figures which Dante - and with him, the best religious tradition of his time -- so indissolubly linked to each other: Joachim of Fiore and Francis of Assisi. The Appenine mountain chain is not only the physical dorsal spine of the peninsula: there was a stupendous spiritual continuity from Sila to Subasio, in the mature years of the Italian Middle Ages. To have introduced a fracture into that spine was a gesture of improvident iconoclasm."

Joseph Ratzinger would probably not have had any difficulty subscribing to that statement made in 1931 by Ernesto Buonaiuti at the start of his reconstruction of the life and thought of Joachim of Fiore.

In his own introduction to the book whose new Italian edition we are presenting tonight, the then young Bavarian theologian recalled how a theology and a philosophy of history are born above all during crisis periods in human history, starting with Augustine's De civitate Dei, which was a response to the collapse of the Roman Empire and the world of antiquity.

Augustine, Joachim, Bonaventure, Francis of Assisi.

"From then on, the attempt to dominate history in a theological sense was never again alien to Western theology..."(p. 15). At the start of the 13th century, this recurrent attempt to dominate history in terms of theology reached a new culminating point in Joachim of Fiore's prophecy of history" - and here is where the vision of the Italian 'modernist' and the German theologian coincide - "it reached...its maximum force only with the splendid confirmation given to it by the person and work of Francis of Assisi" (p. 16).

The two factors together - Joachim's call and the response of Franciscanism - placed into question the medieval image of history, generating a new, second culminating moment in the Christian way of thinking about history...represented by St. Bonaventure's Hexaemeron" (p.16)...

The intention of the Collationes was to 'counterpoint the spiritual disorientation of the time with the image of authentic Christian wisdom" (p.27), seriously settling accounts with the historical moment.

But - as Ratzinger is quick to take note - the six levels of knowledge, allegorically represented by the six days of creation and symbolized in the six eras of salvation, are further articulated into different levels which indisputably presented the growth in time of the levels of knowledge. Recognizing the historical character of Scriptural statements, Bonaventure differed from the interpretation of the Fathers and of scholastics who were guided by the idea of immutability. With the idea of theoriae arising from rationes seminales in a temporal perspective - 'a mirroring of future times in Scriptures" (P. 29) - Bonaventure adapted the interpretation of Scripture that Joachim had presented in his Concordia.

Bonaventure "thus affirmed that fundamental historic conception which was the decisive novelty brought by the Calabrian abbot (Joachim) to the thinking of the Fathers" (p. 29).

Scripture has certainly been fulfilled and Revelation is concluded, but its significance must continue to be searched continuously throughout history, and that search is not at an end" (cfr p. 29).

By our position in time, we see and understand more in some respects than the Fathers did. "In this way, the interpretation of Scriptures becomes a theology of history, an illumination of the past as prophecy for the future" (p. 30).

These were the premises that led Bonaventure to exclude Augustine from the theology of history, since he oriented everything to a correspondence between the story of the Old Testament and that of the New - an orientation which Augustine had resolutely rejected" (cfr p. 32).

In Bonaventure's theology, Christ is not the end of times - as in the Augustinian scheme - but the center of times, and it is this option that impels Bonaventure to believe in 'a new salvation that is realized 'in history', within the confines of earthly time" (p. 34). Then, even the Church in its realized form as "contemplative Church" is yet to come and we must still await its transformation in history (cfr p. 35).

Surprisingly, then, Ratzinger presents us with a Bonaventure who, in the summer of 1273, openly and consciously showed the influence of Joachim. But which Joachim?

Ratzinger quickly makes that clear: Bonaventure 'detaches himself clearly and resolutely' from the coarse manipulations that Gerardo di Borgo San Donnino had performed on Joachim, presenting the writings of the Calabrian abbot as an eternal Gospel designed to replace the transitory and perishable New Testament (cfr p. 45). But the rejection of Gerardo by Bonaventure cannot in any way be seen as a 'rejection of the original Joachim" (p. 46).

Thus, Ratzinger's reading fulfills two things at the same time: while he brings Bonaventure close to Joachim on the one hand, he separates Joachim clearly from the Joachimites, on the other hand.

I have said that Ratzinger's interpretation - which is in full and total rupture with preceding analyses by Martin Grabmann and Etienne Gilson, but along the lines of Alois Dempf and Leone Tondelli who paved the way for him, - brings Bonaventure close to Joachim.

But the young German theologian was also fully aware of the many differences between the Franciscan and the monk from Fiore.

The primary difference is in their evaluation of the times they lived in. Precisely because time and its passing are decisive in the visions of both Joachim and Bonaventure, the Franciscan could go beyond Joachim in reasoning, if only because 60 years separate the death of Joachim in 1202 from Bonaventure's Collationes in 1273.

The novelty introduced into medieval religion by Francis of Assisi
represents the great difference between the two. For Bonaventure - Francis's disciple, successor, and biographer - Francis was not a saint like others, but occupied an absolutely singular and preeminent place in the history of salvation, one who, in his conception, came to introduce the last phase of this history.

Francis, he wrote, was the new Elijah, the new John the Baptist, and, in Collationes, 'the angel who rises from the East' referred to in the Apocalypse (7,2), with the seal of the living God, namely the stigmata Francis received at Verna.

This image would run throughout the 13th century which Francis marked so much, and Bonaventure saw in Francis the figure announced by Joachim in the fourth book of Concordia who would be conferred 'the full liberty to renew the Christian religion".

To the Abbot of Fiore's prophecy, Francis's advent appeared like a prompt response, and it was Francis who would have the task of choosing the 144,000 elect who would found the chosen community at the end of times.

But in what measure does this novus ordo - mystic expression of the 'contemplative church' with which the sixth day of creation is transformed into the quiet Sabbath of the seventh day - correspond in empirical fact to the Franciscan order of which Bonaventure was the minister-general in that summer of 1273?

The question is fundamental, even for the consequences that it brings; and the analysis of texts conducted by Ratzinger is attentive to the nuances: It starts from Joachim, goes through the pseudo-Joachimite commentaries, to Jeremiah, and then dwells on the fundamental passages in Collatio XXI; before coming to the conclusion that Bonaventure, ignoring the pseudo-Joachims, takes off directly from Joachim, but actualizes him in the light of Francis and his movement.

If the fundamental thesis of the Spirituals was identification with the Franciscan order, or rather its spiritual branch as the order of the 'final times', Bonaventure rejects that equation and takes a different position: Francis had certainly inaugurated a new community of contemplative men but although it is intrinsically Franciscan, it could not be identified automatically with the actual Franciscan order. The order was perhaps originally destined to play such a role, but the the deviations of its members had brought the Franciscans, like the Dominicans, to the threshold of the 'new time' that they could prepare for, but without being able themselves to incarnate it personally.

And only when this new time arrived, only then would come the moment of full contemplatio and a renewed understanding of Scripture, the time of the Holy Spirit, and therefore, of introduction to the full truth of Jesus Christ.

In the eyes of Bonaventure, as analyzed by Ratzinger, Francis anticipated in his person the form of eschatological existence which, as a form of universal life, belongs to the future. One must conclude surprisingly that this realistic distinction between Francis and Franciscanism was "not only the discovery of liberal research on Francis" which had its most significant peak in the famous 1893 biography by Ernst Renan's pupil, Paul Sabatier, but had already been formulated by 'the great Franciscan superior-general of the 13th century" (p. 81).

This 'realistic distinction' is the key to understanding Bonaventure's behavior as minister-general and his attitude to life as a Franciscan: He could reject the sine glossa, the utter lack of compromise - that he recognized as Francis's desire - in both the exercise of his office, as well as his personal form of life, knowing that the hour had not yet struck. As long as the sixth day lasts, times would not be ripe for that radical Christian existence that Francis, by divine mission, could realize ahead of time in his own person.

Without any sense of unfaithfulness to the blessed founder of his order, Bonaventure could and had to, as a consequence, create for his order those institutional limits which he knew were never intended by Francis. [Bonaventure relaxed Francis's rules for the order.] It is too facile, and definitively wrong, to see this as a falsification of true Franciscanism....

Let us then return, in conclusion, to a passage in the preface of the American edition of this book, dated August 1969. In it, Ratzinger underscores how Collationes was the response to the profound crisis triggered in the Order and in the Church by the encounter between the Joachimite expectation and the Franciscan movement.

Bonaventure could have totally rejected Joachim, as Thomas Aquinas would later do, opting for a history that was all Augustinian and high Middle Ages, for the parable of a mundus senescens, an aging world, which is precipitating ineluctably towards a final crisis.

But doing so, he would have theologically rejected that novelty that Francis had brought, simply through his life, into the world: Bonaventure opts for a different path, which was risky but potentially very fecund: he interprets Joachim "within tradition, while the Joachimites interpreted him against tradition" (p. 12)

Doing so, the minister-general offered an ecclesial reading, which created an alternative to the radical Joachimites and at the same time sought to preserve the unity of the Order (cfr p.12).

Let us now take a step forward and remember that the author of the book we are presenting tonight became Pope on April 19, 2005, 46 years after his book came out, 36 years after he formulated the Preface for the American edition.

How can we not think, then, that the Pope, who addressed the Roman Curia on December 22, 2005, with his celebrated address on the legacy of the Second Vatican Council and on the need to read it as continuity in tradition and not as rupture, is not fulfilling - through that much disputed and discussed legacy of the Council - precisely the very operation that he identified in Bonaventure with respect to Joachim?

When Benedict XVI speaks of the 'right interpretation of the Council', its 'correct hermeneutic', the 'right key for its reading and application', is he not perhaps wishing for Vatican II the same reading that he was able to intuit in Bonaventure with respect to Joachim?

To interpret Vatican II 'within tradition', avoiding escapes and senseless defensiveness, is perhaps the profound key to this Pontificate. And it is quite fitting to think that a possible model for Benedict XVI could be seen in some way in the Bonaventurian theology of history as he portrayed it in his 1959 book and its reading of Joachim.

In this way, Prof. Ratzinger and Pope Benedict XVI reaffirm that theology, like Christian life, should remain in contact with its own history, without which it would be "a tree cut off from its own roots' (p. 12), condemned to dry up and wither.

We all know that the image of the tree was dear to Joachim, as it was to another 13th century interpreter, a faithful and original disciple of Bonaventure, Pietro di Giovanni Olivi - cited in a footnote of the 1959 book - who, in his comment on the Apocalypse, would present the history of the Church as a succession of statuses linked to each other by a concurrentia which unites them without a break, in such a way indeed that one generates the next.

It was Olivi, with the extraordinary parable of the man before the triple peak of a mountain, who expressed in the most effective way the new Joachimite-Bonaventurian conception of history.

We might add that it certainly does not seem by chance that the Prof. Ratzinger who dedicates the entire second chapter to the content of worldly hope in the new Joachimite-Bonaventurian sense would be the same person who in the 1980s and 1990s would face, as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the premises and consequences of liberation theology, and who as Pope, would dedicate his second encyclical to the subject of hope.

But we can well see that it is not only the content of the Bonaventurian operation that inspires Benedict XVI - that even its form does. In the final analysis, it is the model of a theologian called on to assume responsibility within the Church - the profile of the theologian Augustine who became Bishop of Hippo, in the 5th century; and in the 13th, that of the master teacher Bonaventure who became minister-general of the Franciscan order and cardinal - which perhaps lives again in the first Bishop of Rome in the 21st century, who was a theologian and remains one, drawing from his theological reflections the nourishment for his preaching and magisterium.

In this sense, reading this book from 1959 is not only illuminating for understanding Bonaventure and Franciscanism. It becomes invaluable for understanding the spirit of its author and perhaps, the profound spirit of his Pontificate.



ST. BONAVENTURE, OFM, Bishop and Doctor of the Church
Born in Bagnoregio near Viterbo, Italy, in 1221
Died at Lyons, France, in 1274
Canonized in 1482
Declared a Doctor of the Church in 1587 by Sixtus V
Known as 'the Seraphic Doctor'
Feast day July 14

Born Giovanni (John) di Fidanza, an untrustworthy legend says that his name was changed to Bonaventure ("good fortune") by Saint Francis of Assisi, who miraculously cured him of a dangerous illness during his childhood and exclaimed: O buona ventura!

A contemporary of Saint Thomas Aquinas and Saint Albert the Great, he went to the University of Paris when he was 14. There he studied theology under the English Franciscan, Alexander of Hales (the "Unanswerable Doctor"); and it was perhaps the influence of this teacher that induced him to enter the order when he was 20.

By 1248, he was a bachelor of Scripture; two years later he became a bachelor of theology; and three years after that he became a master of theology and was appointed to the professorial chair of the Friars Minor. He taught theology and Scripture, and preached in Paris for many years (1248-1255), concentrating on the elucidation of some of the problems that especially exercised men's minds in his day.

His teaching was curtailed by the opposition of secular professors, who were jealous of the new mendicants' success and were perhaps made uncomfortable by their austere lives when compared unfavorably with their own. Apparently, their disdain for the Franciscans, led the university to delay granting him a doctorate in theology, yet this did not embitter Bonaventure. With Aquinas he defended the mendicant friars against their opponents.

When the secular leader William of Saint-Armour wrote The perils of the last times, Bonaventure responded by publishing Concerning the poverty of Christ, a treatise on holy poverty. Pope Alexander IV denounced Saint-Armour, had his book burned, and ordered a halt to the attack on the mendicants. Thus, vindicated, the mendicant orders were re-established at Paris, and Bonaventure and Aquinas received their doctorates in theology in 1257.

That same year, when he was only 36, Bonaventure was elected minister general of the Franciscans. In this position he was faced with a difficult task, for though Saint Francis had established an incomparable spiritual ideal for his order, his organization was weak and since his death a number of different groups had arisen.

At the general chapter of Narbonne in 1260, Bonaventure designed a set of constitutions as a rule, which had a lasting effect on the order, and for which he is called the second founder of the Franciscans. It has, however, been claimed that he also weakened the spirit of Saint Francis; the Life that he wrote of him, in order to promote unity among the brothers, was accurate but incomplete, and he modified the rule that forbade the brothers to accept money or own property.

The strict-interpretation Spirituals among the Franciscans valued poverty above all else, including learning. Bonaventure strongly supported the importance of study to the order, and the need for the order to provide books and buildings. He confirmed the practice of monks teaching and studying at universities, believing that the Franciscans could better fulfill the need for preaching and spiritual guidance to compensate for other poorly educated clergy.

In addition to theological and philosophical works, Saint Bonaventure has left us sundry ascetical treatises, some of which have been translated into English including the Journey of the soul to God. The hymn In the Lord's atoning grief is a translation from Bonaventure.

Among his works are Commentary on the sentences of Peter Lombard (which covers the whole field of scholastic theology), the mystical works Breviloquium, Itinerarium mentis ad Deum, De reductione artium ad theologium, Perfection of life (written for Blessed Isabella, sister of Saint Louis IX, and her convent of Poor Clares), Soliloquy, The three-fold way, biblical commentaries, and sermons.

Bonaventure was nominated as archbishop of York in 1265, but refused the honor. In 1273, much against his will, Bonaventure was made cardinal and bishop of Albano by Pope Gregory X. His personal simplicity is illustrated by the story that when his cardinal's hat was brought to him at the friary in Mugello (near Florence), he told the legates to hang it on a nearby tree, as he was washing the dishes and his hands were wet and greasy.

At right is a photo of Zurbaran's 1629 painting of Aquinas and Bonaventure in Paris.

The following year, Pope Gregory called him to draw up the agenda for the 14th general council at Lyons to discuss the reunion of Rome with the churches of the East. Saint Thomas Aquinas died en route to the council. Bonaventure was the leading figure in the success of the council that effected the brief reunion, and led his last general chapter of the order between the third and fourth sessions. Bonaventure died while the Council of Lyons was still in session and was buried in Lyons.

Saint Bonaventure's reputation is based on his personal goodness and his skill as a theologian. "In him it seemed as though Adam had not sinned," wrote Alexander of Hales, and when he died the official record of the Council of Lyons stated: "In the morning died Brother Bonaventure of famous memory, a man outstanding in sanctity, kind, affable, pious and merciful, full of virtues, beloved of God and man. . . . God gave him the grace that whoever saw him conceived a great and heartfelt love for him."

The saint was known for his accessibility to any and all who wished to consult him, and once explained his urgency in making himself available to a simple lay brother by saying, "I am at the same time both prelate and master, and that poor brother is both my brother and my master."

Though Bonaventure and Aquinas were friends in their lifetime, the two men had strongly opposed each other on the question of the neo- Aristotelianism that was being introduced into theology, for Saint Bonaventure feared that as a result philosophy would be elevated above theology and that reason would be made more important than revelation.

Saint Bonaventure was a man of the highest intellectual attainments, but he would emphasize that a fool's love and knowledge of God may be greater than that of a humanly wise man. To reach God, he said, "little attention must be given to reason and great attention to grace, little to books and everything to the gift of God, which is the Holy Spirit."

Above all he emphasized charity: "For in truth, a poor and unlearned old woman can love God better than a Doctor of Theology."

Bonaventure believed that the created world gave us a sign of God. But faith was needed, honed by reason, to lead to contemplation of the divine. When his friend Aquinas asked where Bonaventure gained his own great knowledge, Bonaventure pointed to a crucifix. "I study only the crucified one, Jesus Christ," he replied.

Philosophy in itself was only an instrument, and unless it was modified in the light of revelation would lead into error, or into an arid preoccupation with intellectual arguments for their own sake.

In his opposition to Aristotelian philosophy, Saint Bonaventure no doubt went too far, and the synthesis achieved by Saint Thomas has had none of the disastrous effects that he feared.

Yet in taking his stand on the primacy of theology, he was aligning himself with the greatest of all Christian thinkers, Saint Augustine, and in stressing the supremacy of grace, he was following in the footsteps of the founder of his order, Saint Francis.


Blessed Joachim of Fiore, OSB Cist. Abbot
(also known as Joachim de Floris)
Born at Celico, Calabria, Italy, c. 1130; died 1202.

Joachim was a visionary and prophet who, early in life, adopted an ascetic life. After a pilgrimage to Palestine, he entered the Cistercian abbey at Sambucina. In 1176, he became abbot of Corazzo, and about 1190, founded his own monastery at Fiore - a new Cistercian Congregation. His life was marked with great piety and simplicity.

He looked for a new age of the Spirit, when the papal Church would be superseded by a spiritual Church in which popes, priests, and ceremonies would disappear, and the Holy Spirit would fill the hearts of all Christ's followers.

Thus, his heart was Franciscan and, in a way, he anticipated the reforming zeal and simple faith of the Quakers. It is not surprising that doubts were sometimes thrown upon his orthodoxy and that many were disturbed by his original and even startling views.

Nevertheless, he opened the way for others to follow, and kindled a hope that ran through the medieval world and stirred the intellect of the Church. Reformation was in the air, and many things which he foresaw or foretold came to birth in the century that followed, in the great days of Dominic, Francis of Assisi, and Ignatius Loyola.

A new emphasis was placed on the work of the Holy Spirit, and after the gloom which preceded, there burst upon the world fresh and radiant visions of saintliness and virtue, and with them a new warmth and glow of religious life. A wave of exhilaration swept across Europe, and in that golden age of art and genius men looked beyond the outward forms and found in their own hearts a living and personal experience of God.

Joachim helped to give birth to this new mood of feeling and spontaneity, which later found song in such words as "O Jesus, King Most Wonderful" and "Jesu, the very thought of Thee." It was Pentecost set to music:

When once Thou visitest the heart,
Then truth begins to shine,
Then earthly vanities depart,
Then kindles love divine.
O Jesus, Light of all below!
Thou Fount of living fire,
Surpassing all the joys we know,
And all we can desire.

With this inner fire went a consuming love that burned in the heart of Saint Francis and his friars, that sent Dominic and his preachers out of their churches into the hills and highways, and that in a thousand monasteries set up Christian communities to care for the welfare of the people.

He was a prolific ascetical writer. His commentary on the Book of Revelation gave his the title "the Prophet" by which he was described by Dante: "the Calabrian abbot Joachim, endowed with prophetic spirit" (Paradiso, XII).

Thus Joachim was among the enthusiasts, who turned for inspiration to the Bible. Unfortunately, after his death the Franciscan Spirituals used his books to uphold their heretical tendencies. Nevertheless, Joachim has always been given the title of beatus, because, as a mystic and a prophet, he refreshed the life of the Church.