This Wednesday marks the Feast Day of one of the great figures in Franciscan history – St. Bonaventure of Bagnoregio – as well as the 10th anniversary of our Franciscan presence in this historic downtown parish. St. Bonaventure is a good model of what it means to be a Franciscan, while at the same time being a priest and in leadership positions in a parish. Bonaventure reminded the friars of his day that our first vocation is as “brother.” At the core of our charism, we are a fraternity in mission to the People of God striving to continue our Order’s 800-year-old mission: bringing the Gospel into the everyday experience of men and women through our life in fraternity and compassionate service to all.
Among our brother friars in Holy Name Province, we have medical doctors, nurses, university professors, world-renown artists, scholars, directors of nursing homes, youth ministers, teachers, butchers, bakers, cobblers, tailors, economists, HVAC mechanics, as well as men who serve as ordained ministers in parishes. Bonaventure reminds us all that we are called to work, to live a common life in fraternity, and to give humble witness to those we serve. Bonaventure himself gave continual witness to that humble service. Bonaventure was a Regent Master at the University of Paris when he was called to be Minister General – at the same time the Pope wanted to elevate him to the role of Cardinal. Bonaventure answered the call of the Order, his brothers, and took on leadership during one of the most fractious times in the Order’s history. In the following 15 years of leadership, Bonaventure continually visited the brothers – walking from Assisi, to Padua, to Madrid, to Paris, and to all the friaries of Europe. Eventually, in obedience to the Pope, Bonaventure took on the “red hat.”
The papal couriers carrying the official proclamation and “red hat” found Bonaventure at one of the friaries in northern Italy. When the couriers arrived on the scene, Bonaventure, the Minister General of the Order, was occupied washing the dishes after a meal. The courier’s formal announcement was followed by the presentation of the red hat. Bonaventure thanked him, asked him to set the hat on the table, and that he would attend to those things as soon as he had finished washing the dishes.
Being reminded we share this anniversary with St. Bonaventure, it is perhaps best to remember the words of St. Francis that Bonaventure quoted to his brothers during his days of leadership: “Up to now we have done nothing. Let us again set out to do that which we have been given.”
May we all bring the Gospel into the everyday experience of men and women through our life as a community and in compassionate service to all.