St. Bonaventure was born in 1221 in Tuscany, Italy, and was baptized John. Bonaventure joined the Franciscan Order, which was still new. In fact, St. Francis of Assisi, who started the Franciscans, was still alive when Bonaventure was born. As a young Franciscan, Bonaventure left his own country to study at the University of Paris in France. He became a wonderful writer about the things of God. He loved God so much that people began to call him the “Seraphic Doctor.” Seraphic means angelic.
One of Bonaventure’s famous friends was St. Thomas Aquinas. His feast day is January 28. Thomas asked Bonaventure where he got the ideas for all the beautiful things he wrote. St. Bonaventure took his friend and led him to his desk. He pointed to the large crucifix that always stood on his desk. “It is he who tells me everything. He is my only Teacher.” Another time, when he was writing the life of St. Francis of Assisi, Bonaventure was so full of fervor that St. Thomas exclaimed: “Let us leave a saint to write about a saint.” Bonaventure always kept himself humble even though his books made him famous.
In 1265, Pope Clement IV wanted Bonaventure to become an archbishop. He begged the pope to accept his refusal. The pope respected his decision. However, Bonaventure did agree to be minister general of his Order. He fulfilled this difficult task for seventeen years. In 1273, Blessed Pope Gregory X made Bonaventure a cardinal. The pope sent two papal messengers, who found Bonaventure working at the large washtubs. He was taking his turn scrubbing the pots and pans. The papal messengers waited patiently until Bonaventure finished the last pot. He rinsed and dried his hands. Then they solemnly presented him the large red hat that symbolized his new office.
Cardinal Bonaventure was a great help to this pope, who called the Council of Lyons in 1274. Thomas Aquinas died on his way to the Council, but Bonaventure made it. He was very influential at the assembly. Yet he, too, died rather suddenly on July 14, 1274, at the age of fifty-three. The pope was at his bedside when he died. Bonaventure was proclaimed a saint in 1482 by Pope Sixtus IV. In 1588, Pope Sixtus V declared him a Doctor of the Church.