Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The other theologian

When we think of Catholic theologians the first name that comes to mind for most people is St. Thomas Aquinas. But what is the second name?

Unfortunately today's saint is not one that jumps to mind when most people think of theologians, but it should be. The paths of St. Thomas and St. Bonaventure ran parallel for much of their lives. The were both members of mendicant orders, dedicated to spreading the gospel to the people, and the are the finest representatives of their two orders and schools of theology, St. Thomas the Dominican, St. Bonaventure the Franciscan.

While the Franciscans are associated with their care for the poor, and nature, in no way should we forget their contribution to theology. St. Boanventure was as much an intellectual as St. Thomas. Both are "Doctors of the Church", a title which designates those with the greatest contribution to theology. St. Thomas is known as the angelic doctor, but interestingly St. Bonaventure as the seraphic doctor.

The word Seraph literally means burning ones. In Christian angelology they are the highest rank of angels. The prophet Isaiah in vision sees the surrounding the throne of God. They are the ones who cry out "Holy, Holy, Holy." The fire with which they burn is love.

Back in 2010 Pope Benedict summarized this focus of Bonaventure's theology in these words

for St Bonaventure the ultimate destiny of the human being is to love God, to encounter him and to be united in his and our love. For him this is the most satisfactory definition of our happiness.

Theology is an intellectual activity, it involves both faith and reason, but St. Bonaventure in a particular way reminds us that its goal is always to draw us closer and more in love with God, our only real happiness.