VATICAN CITY, 10 MAR 2010 (VIS) - During today's general audience, celebrated in the Paul VI Hall, the Pope turned his attention to the written works and doctrine of St. Bonaventure of Bagnoregio.
St. Bonaventure "authentically and faithfully interpreted the figure of St. Francis of Assisi", said the Holy Father. He reacted against the "Spirituals" in the Franciscan Order who, drawing on the ideas of Joachim of Fiore, held that "with St. Francis the final phase of history had begun", and looked to the creation of a new Church of the Holy Spirit, "no longer tied to the structures of old".
St. Bonaventure dealt with this question in his last work, "Hexaemeron", in which he explained that "God is one throughout history. ... History is one, even if it is a journey, a journey of progression. ... Jesus is the last word of God" and "there is no other Gospel, no other Church to be awaited. Thus the Order of St. Francis must also insert itself into this Church, into her faith and her hierarchical order.
"This does not mean", Benedict XVI added, "that the Church is immobile, fixed in the past, that there is no room in her for novelty". With his famous expression "the works of Christ are not lacking but prospering", St. Bonaventure "explicitly formulated the idea of progress", certain "that the richness of the word of Christ is never ending and that it can also being new light to new generations. The uniqueness of Chris is also a guarantee of novelty and renewal in the future".
The Holy Father noted how "today too opinions exist according to which the entire history of the Church in the second millennium is one of constant decline. Some people see this decline as having begun immediately after the New Testament". Yet, the Pope asked, "what would the Church be without the new spirituality of the Cistercians, the Franciscans and the Dominicans, the spirituality of St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross? ... St. Bonaventure teaches us ... how to open ourselves to the new charisms given by Christ, in the Holy Spirit, to His Church".
"Following Vatican Council II some people were convinced that all was new, that a new Church existed, that the pre-conciliar Church had come to an end and that there would be another, completely different Church, an anarchic utopia. Yet thanks to God the wise helmsmen of the ship of Christ, Paul VI and John Paul II, defended on the one hand the novelty of the Church and, at the same time, the uniqueness and continuity of the Church, which is always a Church of sinners, and always a place of grace".
Going on then to comment of some of the saint's mystical and theological writings, "which were the core of his governance" of the Franciscan Order, the Pope identified the most important work as "Itinerarium mentis in Deum" (The Journey of the Mind to God). In that book St. Bonaventure explained that knowledge of God is a six-stage journey, culminating "in the full union with the Trinity through Jesus Christ, in imitation of St. Francis of Assisi".
In St. Peter's Basilica, before today's general audience in the Paul VI Hall, the Pope met with a group of pilgrims from the Italian Don Carlo Gnocchi Foundation, who were marking last October's beatification "of that outstanding Milanese priest".
Referring to the "extraordinary activities" they undertake on behalf of "children in need, the disabled, the elderly, the terminally ill and in the vast field of assistance and healthcare", the Holy Father noted how "through your projects of solidarity you seek to continue the meritorious work begun by Blessed Carlo Gnocchi".
"In this Year for Priests", the Pope concluded his remarks to the group, "the Church once again looks to him as a model to imitate. May his shining example support the efforts of those who dedicate themselves to serving the weakest, and arouse in priests the desire to rediscover and reinvigorate their awareness of the extraordinary gift of Grace that ordained ministry represents for the person who receives it, for the entire Church and for the world".
AG/ST. BONAVENTURE/... VIS 20100310 (710)