Under a clear blue sky and on a perfect spring day, Pope Benedict XVI hosted the faithful and pilgrims in the open air of St. Peter’s Square for today’s audience. The teachings of the Holy Father’s catechesis once again centered on the figure of St. Bonaventure, with the Pope highlighting the saint's belief that love surpasses reason in entering "more profoundly into the mystery of God.”
Summarizing some of the work of the two saints, the Pope said that these two 13th century theologians “define differently the ultimate destination of man (which is) his full happiness.”
The Pope said that for the “great thinker” St. Thomas, the “supreme end” was “to see God.”
“In this simple act of seeing God,” the Pope explained about the Dominican’s perspective, “solutions to all problems are found: we are happy, nothing else is necessary.”
For St. Bonaventure, on the other hand, “the ultimate destiny of man is to love God,” said the Holy Father.
“This is for him the most adequate definition of our happiness.”
In pursuing the line of these perspectives, said the Pope, “we could also say that the highest category for St. Thomas is the truth, while for St. Bonaventure it is the good.”
However, he added, “it would be wrong to see in these two responses a contradiction. For both, the truth is also the good, and the good is also the truth; seeing God is loving and loving is seeing.
“It’s about different emphases of a fundamentally common decision. Both emphases have formed distinct traditions and distinct spiritualities and so have shown the fecundity of the faith, one in the diversity of their expressions.”
Further explaining the roots of the theology and thought of St. Bonaventure, the Holy Father illustrated the mystic influence on him from the teachings of the 6th century Syrian theologian, so-called "Pseudo-Dionysius." Through his writings, taught the Pope, the saint saw that "love extends beyond reason, it sees more, enters more profoundly into the mystery of God.”
The Pope said that St. Bonaventure was "fascinated" by the idea that love still has sight in the “dark night of the Cross all the greatness of divine love appears: where reason no longer sees, love does. ... This is not anti-intellectual or anti-rational; it accepts the path of reason but transcends it in the love of the crucified Christ.”
"With this transformation of the mysticism of Pseudo-Dionysius, St. Bonaventure put himself at the beginning of a great mystic current, that elevated and purified the human mind greatly: it is a summit in the story of the human spirit," observed the Pope.
In addition to this "theology of the Cross," said the Holy Father, we should not forget that the saint shared the love for creation and joy over the beauty of the creation of God that characterized St. Francis.
In St. Bonaventure's view, said the Pope, all of creation speaks of the "good and beautiful God, of his love," and our lives on Earth are a "pilgrimage - a 'climb' towards God."
At the conclusion of the audience, Pope Benedict XVI met with representatives of the city of Romano Canavese, hometown of Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone, who conferred honorary citizenship upon him. The Holy Father visited their city in July of last year.
Wednesday’s general audience marked the first time this year that it has been held outdoors.