Saints Index

Oct 26 - Bl Bonaventure of Potenza -1711

Bonaventure was born of poor but virtuous parents in Potenza in the kingdom of Naples. A pious priest gave the boy instructions in Latin. At the age of 15, Bonaventure received the Franciscan habit among the Conventuals. After his profession, he resumed his studies with great ardor, but his zeal for perfection was less ardent.

His superiors sent him to Amalfi, where he lived eight years under the guidance of an eminent director of souls. This spiritual director trained his pupil above all in humility, self abnegation, and obedience, and Bonaventure achieved a high degree of perfection in these virtues.

One day Bonaventure told his master that the key to the sacristy was lost. "Well," said his master with a smile, "then you will have to look for it in the well; get a rod and fish it out." Promptly Bonaventure went to the well and with rod and line fished for the key. It was not long before he actually drew it out. God rewarded him in a miraculous manner for his blind obedience.

As a priest he labored with remarkable success. His words, conduct, prayer, and mortification combined to produce blessed results. His simple sermons made a deep impression on all hearts. At times a single word of his was enough to move the most hardened sinner to contrition.

At various times he was appointed guardian of a convent, but his humble pleas were always successful in changing the mind of his superiors. Obedience at length compelled him to accept the position of novice master. In this office he sought to inculcate in his pupils above all the practice of humility and obedience.

An epidemic broke out among the townsfolk, and Bonaventure at once sacrificed himself. Fearless of contracting the disease, he hastened from end to end of the town, rendering every possible service to the stricken, even the lowliest, and administering the sacraments to them. He cured many miraculously; he multiplied their insufficient provisions by his blessing, and he foretold future events.

After Bonaventure had been a shining model of virtue among his brethren for 45 years, he felt that his last hour was at hand. While the community gathered about his bed during the administration of the last sacraments, the dying man in touching words begged pardon of his superior and the community for his many faults and infractions of the rule, as he called them.

Deeply moved, the superior handed him the crucifix, and amid abundant tears the servant of God kissed the feet of the Savior, and then died peacefully on October 26, 1711. Pope Pius VI beatified him in 1775.

1. Consider in Blessed Bonaventure the example of a saint who began with humility, advanced by humility, and reached the pinnacle of sanctity by humility. So much is sanctity bound up with humility. It rests on humility as its foundation, only by means of this virtue can it increase, and humility alone makes it possible to persevere in sanctity unto a blessed end. Learn from this how destructive spiritual pride must be. Anybody who is leading a religious life or striving after Christian perfection and proudly considers himself better than others or presumes to think he amounts to anything in the sight of God, has a worm gnawing interiorly at all the good and pious practices he performs. He actually amounts to nothing before God, and if he persists in being proud he will eventually be lost. When spiritual pride is laid hold of the angels, they were cast into hell and became devils. Then the devil seduced our first parents by making them believe they would be like God. -- Does he perhaps use the same ruse to tempt you?
2. Consider how pride, like a smooth serpent, creeps in unobserved. It is part of our fallen nature. "Nature," says Thomas a Kempis (3:54), "labors for its own interests; it willingly receives honor and respect, but is afraid of shame and contempt." Hence it happens that we take pleasure in thinking of our good works and advantages, always speaking about ourselves, and in setting ourselves up as models for others. "Not he who commends himself, is approved, but he whom God commends" (2 Cor 10:18). Recall the parable of the proud Pharisee and the humble publican, which our Lord addressed to those who trusted in their justice while they despised the rest of men. "This man went down into his house justified, rather than the other" (Luke 18:14). -- Which of the two do you resemble?
3. Consider how we should struggle against pride and self-sufficiency. We must often plead with God as did the Wise Man: "O Lord, Father and God of my life, leave me not to their devices. Give me not haughtiness of my eyes, and turn away from me all coveting" (Eccli 23:4-5). Then, too, for our humiliation, we should reflect on our faults and our sins. Just as the proud peacock, on spreading its brilliant feathers, immediately drops his wings when he sees his ugly feet, so will a look at our failures soon chase away pride. Finally, imitate Blessed Bonaventure by exercising yourself in acts of obedience and humility. Think of Mary, who called herself a handmaid of the Lord at a time when an angel announced God's greatest prerogatives of grace to her. Say to God: "O Lord I am Thy servant and the son of Thy handmaid" (Ps 115:7).

O God, who didst propose Blessed Bonaventure, Thy confessor, to us as an admirable example of obedience, grant, we beseech Thee, that like him we may deny our will and adhere to Thy commandments. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

from: The Franciscan Book of Saints, ed. by Marion Habig, ofm., 1959 Franciscan Herald Press