As July 15 and the feast of St. Bonaventure nears, a friar writes about St. Bonaventure’s captivation with the word of God, wondering how humanity can transport its destructive and jealous words into a new “word order.” James Vacco, OFM, is stationed at a university and a parish both named for Bonaventure of Bagnoregio.
In her book, “Simply Bonaventure,” Sr. Ilia Delio, OSF, states: “Words are part of our everyday life. They are integral to who we are as human beings. Words express thoughts. We go about our daily lives thinking about various things, and each one of our thoughts shapes the person we become that day. When these thoughts are expressed as words, they reflect the content of who we are as persons. Bonaventure was captivated not simply by words but by the Word of God. This Word is the sum total of the infinite divine ideas. When the Word is expressed in a finite way, creation bursts forth and tells us something about God.” (pg. 84)
Ilia deduced that for Bonaventure, the world without the Word incarnate would be incomplete, deficient and acutely dysfunctional. When I look at the contemporary world with all the terrorism, insurgencies, ideological conflicts, and other forms of human denigration and destructive insults to the created order, I wonder how humanity can transform its destructive and jealous words into a new “word” order?
Bonaventure’s reflection on the Word Incarnate gives humanity a glimmer of the potential we have because of the potency of God’s love. The relationship of God with the created order, especially that part of creation that is uniquely the image and likeness of the divine, is a power which Bonaventure describes as a “raging fire that carries the soul to God with intense fervor and glowing love.” This induces a “wisdom” which draws forth the longing for “the ardor of loving passion” which is epitomized in the “passion of Christ.” For as Bonaventure states in the Tree of Life: “that he might draw you out totally… he appeared to you as your beloved, cut through with wound upon wound in order to heal you.” (26) Thus, by this divine mentoring, the potentiality of the ‘Word” within each of us can ignite that new ‘word” order for and in all of us.
Back in 2005, I was the faculty advisor for the then recently revised St. Bonaventure University academic honors society. Part of the induction ceremony was a prayer based on verses from St. Bonaventure’s “Itinerarium.” The prayer reads:
O God, the perfection of the mind’s illumination (6:7),
you have made each of us in your image and likeness, (ff 6:7)
giving us reason to probe the universal depths,
so to discover
beauty and grace,
mystery and wonder,
‘the caused and the cause,’ (6:7)
manifold abundance of your creation and You the Creator.
In so far as it is possible in our state as wayfarers
and through the exercise of our minds (7:1),
may we transcend and pass over to a deeper appreciation
of your mystery which permeates all that is seen and yet to be seen.
Filled with continued love and devotion,
admiration and exultation (7:2),
may we feel ever more,
‘the fire of your presence’ (7:6), like the hearth of an open furnace;
‘and come to know
the immeasurable and absolute ecstasy of a mind and life (7:5)
illuminated by your Divine Spark,
ignited by the Holy Spirit,
of the mirror of your wisdom:
your Word, Jesus Christ,
our perfect ‘joy and praise’ (7:2).
May Bonaventure’s mystical vision illuminate the deep recesses of our minds and hearts, so that our words may be manifestations and mirrors of the Word, who makes all things new.
— Fr. James is pastor of St. Bonaventure Parish in Allegany, N.Y., and an adjunct professor of theology at St. Bonaventure University.
Editor’s Note: The HNP Communications Office welcomes friars to submit reflections about holidays, feast days and other topics of a timely nature. Those interested in contributing an essay for a future issue of HNP Today should contact communications director Jocelyn Thomas by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.