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Pope, at audience, contrasts St. Bonaventure with St. Thomas Aquinas

Catholic World News - March 17, 2010

Continuing his series of weekly talks on the great intellectual figures of Church history, Pope Benedict XVI spoke at his public audience of March 17 on St. Bonaventure, offering his third talk on the great Franciscan theologian.

Together with his contemporary, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Bonaventure advanced "that fruitful dialogue between faith and reason that characterized the Christian Middle Ages, making it a period of great intellectual vivacity as well as of faith and ecclesial renewal." The Pope said that the "spiritual freshness" of these two great theologians was a factor in the movement that "renewed the entire Church in the 13th century."

St. Thomas distinguished between knowledge and action, assigning to knowledge a higher value, the Pope told the crowd in St. Peter's Square. But St. Bonaventure introduced a third element, "wisdom," which includes the former two and moves on toward contemplation. "For St. Bonaventure," the Pope observed, "the primacy of love is decisive."

Their separate approaches led Sts. Thomas and Bonaventure to define man's ultimate aim in different ways, the Pope continued. St. Thomas said that man finally wants to see God. St. Bonaventure argued that the ultimate happiness comes in loving God. "In this context," the Pope continued, "we could say that the highest category for St. Thomas is truth, while for St. Bonaventure it is goodness; yet it would be wrong to see a contradiction between these two positions."

The resolution of the two different approaches lies in the fact that "where reason no longer sees, love does," the Pope said. St. Bonaventure did not reject the power of reason, but argued that ultimately the love of Christ transcends it. Thus, he concluded, St. Bonaventure offered "a great school of mysticism which ... represents a high point in the history of the human spirit."

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Show 2 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: kmbold - Mar. 17, 2010 6:01 PM ET USA

    Did anybody but I ever read about "St. Bonaventure on Women"? I recall leafing through it in my Catholic college library during the '60s and saw some shocking stuff. When I told the librarian, an Ursuline nun, I was told that I should read it "in context", that he was writing to seminarians and the women he excoriated so vehemently were prostitutes. Didn't get much "primacy of love" in that treatment. Can somebody straighten me out?

  • Posted by: - Mar. 17, 2010 4:13 PM ET USA

    what a wonderful Pope we have!

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