Bonaventure, Friar & Bishop

15 July -- Commemoration
If celebrated as a Lesser Festival, Common of Teachers, page 473

Born at Bagnoreggio in Italy in about the year 1218, Bonaventure became a Franciscan Friar in 1243 and his intellectual ability was soon recognised by his Order and by the Church. At the age of thirty-six he was elected Minister General of the Franciscans and virtually re-founded the Order, giving it a stability in training and administration previously unknown. He upheld all the teachings of St Francis except in the founder's attitude to study, since Francis felt the Order should possess no books. He clearly saw, with Francis, that the rôle of the Friars was to support the Church through its contemporary structures rather than to be an instrument for reform. He also believed that the best conversions came from the good example of those anxious to renew the Church, rather than by haranguing or passing laws. He was appointed a cardinal-bishop against his will, and kept the papal messengers waiting while he finished the washing up. He brought about a temporary reunion of the churches in the east and the west but, before it was repudiated, he died on this day at Lyons in the year 1274.