.- Pope Benedict XVI taught today on the holy life of St. Bonaventure during the General Audience at Paul VI Hall. Of this saint it has been said that "all who saw him were pervaded by a love that the heart could not conceal," the Pope said.
The Holy Father began his teaching by admitting a "certain nostalgia" while preparing the catechesis, as he thought back to his youth when he researched the life St. Bonaventure.
"His knowledge engraved not a little of my formation," said Pope Benedict.
Among the "great Christian figures" that contributed to the "harmony between faith and culture" of the 13th century was Bonaventure, whom the Pope described as a "man of action and of contemplation, of profound piety and of prudence in government."
An event that marked his life happened when he was when he was just a boy. Struck by a serious illness from which not even his father, a doctor, thought he would recover, his mother prayed for the intercession of St. Francis and he was healed.
Years later, while studying in Paris he joined the Franciscans, explaining his choice by saying that this order "recognized the action of Christ."
Benedict XVI quoted Bonaventure's words from a letter to a brother in the order, "I confess before God that the reason that made me love the life of Blessed Francis most is that it is alike to the beginnings and the growth of the Church ... the religion of Blessed Francis was not established by the prudence of men, but by Christ."
While completing a difficult course of study in the Theology College of the University of Paris, the Holy Father recalled, "he matured his own personal reflection and a spiritual sensibility of great value that, in the course of the following years, he knew how to transfuse into his works and sermons, in this way becoming one of the most important theologians in the history of the Church."
He started to teach Franciscan theology in Paris and it was at this time that he wrote on "evangelical perfection," showing how the mendicant orders followed the Gospel through their practices of vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.
This teaching, said Pope Benedict, is "always current: the Church is enlightened and beautified by the faithfulness to their vocation of these sons and daughters of hers, who not only put the evangelical precepts into practice but, by God's grace, are called to observe the evangelical counsels and thus bear witness - with their poor, chaste and obedient lifestyle - to the fact that the Gospel is a source of joy and perfection."
St. Bonaventure was elected Minister General of the Friars Minor (Franciscans) in 1257, at that time there were 30,000 brothers spread from China to North Africa.
With the great expansion came various interpretations of the Franciscan message and to address the possibility of internal fracture, he saw that a consolidation and sharing of ideals and motivations was needed to unify the Franciscan action and spirit.
Collecting documents and listening to first-hand testimonies of the life of St. Francis, Bonaventure produced a book on the life of the saint, which became the official biography.
In this biography, noted Pope Benedict, St. Francis emerges as "a man who passionately sought Christ. With the love that leads to imitation, he entirely conformed himself to Him. Bonaventure indicated this as a living ideal for all the followers of St. Francis."
This is the "living ideal" that St. Bonaventure offered to the order, and "this ideal," pointed out Benedict XVI, is "valid for every Christian, yesterday, today, always, was indicated as a program also for the Church of the Third Millenium by my Venerable predecessor John Paul II."
Bonaventure died in 1273, having only just been made a bishop and cardinal by Pope Gregory X.
In closing, Pope Benedict turned to the words of an anonymous pontifical notary who "offers us a conclusive portrait of this great saint and excellent theologian: 'Good man, affable, pious and merciful, height of virtue, loved by God and men ... God indeed had given him such a grace, that all who saw him were pervaded by a love that the heart could not conceal.'"
This "holy Doctor of the Church," concluded Benedict XVI, "reminds us of the meaning of our lives with the following words: 'On earth we can contemplate the immensity of divine things by reason and admiration; in the heavenly homeland, on the other hand, we can view them, when we will have been made similar to God and by ecstasy will enter into the joy of God.'"