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
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
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
ON SPIRITUAL PRIDE
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).
PRAYER OF THE CHURCH
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.
The Franciscan Book
of Saints, ed. by
Marion Habig, ofm., © 1959 Franciscan Herald