A seeker of God
who recognized the reflection of supreme Beauty
On Sunday, 6 September
, after his Pastoral Visit to Viterbo, the Holy Father left
Viterbo by helicopter for his Visit to Bagnoregio. He arrived at the
Alessandro Pompei Sports Ground where he was welcomed by the Mayor. He
was then driven to the
Co-Cathedral of San Nicola, where the Ministers General of the
Franciscan Families and the four parish priests of Bagnoregio awaited
him. The Pope visited the chapel to venerate the relic of the "holy arm"
of St Bonaventure before going to Piazza Sant'Agostino. There he spoke
to the people of Bagnoregio, after hearing the tributes of Bishop
Lorenzo Chiarinelli of Viterbo and the Mayor of Bagnoregio. The
following is a translation of the Pope's Address, given in Italian.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
My Pastoral Visit to your
Diocesan Community began in Viterbo this morning with the solemn
Eucharistic celebration and our meeting here in Bagnoregio more or less
brings it to a close.
I greet you all with
affection: religious, civil and military authorities, priests,
religious, pastoral workers, youth and families, and I thank you for
your cordial welcome. I renew my thanks in the first place to your
Bishop for his affectionate words that recalled my connections with St
Bonaventure. And I greet with respect the Mayor of Bagnoregio, grateful
for his courteous welcome on behalf of the whole city.
Giovanni Fidanza, who was
to become Friar Bonaventure, linked his name with that of Bagnoregio in
the well-known presentation of himself in the Divine Comedy. In saying:
"Bonaventure of Bagnoregio's life am I, who always in great offices
postponed considerations sinister" (Dante, Paradise 127-129), he
stresses that in the important tasks he had to do in the Church he
always put off dealing with temporal realities, "considerations
sinister", for the spiritual good of souls.
He spent his childhood and
adolescence here in Bagnoregio; he later followed St Francis for whom he
felt special gratitude because, as he would later write, St Francis had
"snatched him from the jaws of death" when he was a child (Legenda
Maior, Prologus, 3,3) and had predicted "good fortune" for him, as
your Mayor has just recalled.
He established a deep and
lasting bond with the Poverello of Assisi, drawing from him
ascetic inspiration and ecclesiastical brilliance. You jealously
preserve the famous relic of the "holy arm" of your illustrious
fellow-citizen; you keep alive his memory and deepen the knowledge of
his teaching, especially through the Bonaventure Study Centre founded by
Bonaventura Tecchi, which every year organizes specialized congresses
devoted to studies on the Saint.
It is not easy to sum up
the broad philosophical, theological and mystical doctrine that St
Bonaventure bequeathed to us. In this Year for Priests I would like to
invite priests especially to learn from this great Doctor of the Church,
to deepen their knowledge of his teaching on wisdom rooted in Christ.
He oriented every step of
his speculation and mystical tension to wisdom, which flourishes in
holiness, passing through stages that range from what he calls
uniform wisdom, concerning the fundamental principles of
knowledge, to multiform wisdom, that consists in the mysterious
language of the Bible, then omniform wisdom that sees in every
situation the Creator's reflection, to formless wisdom, in other
words the experience of intimate mystical contact with God, when the
human intellect brushes silently against the infinite Mystery (cf. J.
Ratzinger, San Bonaventura e la teologia della storia, Ed.
Porziuncola, 2006, pp. 92ff.).
In memory of this profound
seeker and lover of wisdom, I would also like to express encouragement
and esteem for the service in the Ecclesial Community that theologians
are called to render to that faith that seeks the intellect, that faith
which is "a friend of intelligence", and becomes new life in accordance
with God's plan.
I limit myself this evening
to drawing from St Bonaventure's rich doctrinal and mystical patrimony
some ideas for reflection that may prove useful to your Diocesan
Community for its pastoral journey.
In the first place, since
the time of his studies in Paris, St Bonaventure was a tireless
seeker of God, which he continued to be throughout his life.
In his writings he points out the path to take.
"Because God is on high",
he writes, "it is necessary to make every effort to raise one's mind to
him (De reductione artium ad theologiam, n. 25).
Thus, Bonaventure plots a
demanding route of faith on which reading will not suffice "without
unction, speculation without devotion, investigation without admiration,
observation without exultation, diligence without compassion, industry
without piety, knowledge without love, understanding without humility,
study without divine grace, the mirror without divinely inspired wisdom"
(Itinerarium mentis in Deum, prol. 4).
This journey of purification involves the entire person
so that through Christ he may attain the transforming love of the
Trinity. And given that with his grace, Christ
since eternity God and for eternity man
brings about a new creation in the faithful, exploration of the divine
presence becomes contemplation of him in the soul, "where he dwells
through the gift of the most bountiful love" (ibid., IV,
4), until the person is at last transported in him.
Faith, therefore, is a perfecting of our cognitive
capacities and participation in the knowledge that God has of himself
and of the world: we perceive hope as a preparation for the encounter
with the Lord that will mark the complete fulfilment of that friendship
which binds us to him from this moment.
And love introduces us to divine life, making us view
all men and women as brothers and sisters, in accordance with the will
of our common heavenly Father.
As well as being a seeker of God, St Bonaventure
was the seraphic poet of creation who, in the sequela of St Francis,
learned "to praise God in all things and through all his creatures", in
which "the omnipotence, wisdom and goodness of the Creator are
resplendent" (ibid., I, 10).
St Bonaventure presents a positive vision of the world,
a gift of God's love to men and women. He recognizes in the world a
reflection of the supreme Goodness and Beauty which, like St Augustine
and St Francis before him, he defines as God himself.
It is God who has given us all things. The true, the
good and the beautiful come from him, as from the original source. We
climb towards God as on the steps of a ladder until we reach and, as it
were, grasp the Supreme Good and find in him our happiness and our
How useful it would be if today too we were to
rediscover the beauty and value of creation in the light of divine
goodness and beauty! In Christ, St Bonaventure notes, the universe
itself can return to being a voice that speaks of God and urges us to
explore it for his presence; it exhorts us to honour him and to glorify
him in all things (cf. ibid., I, 15). Here one notes the
spirit of St Francis, whose love for all creatures was shared by our
St Bonaventure was a messenger of hope. We find a
beautiful image of hope in one of his sermons for Advent, in which he
compares the movement of hope with the flight of a bird that spreads its
wings to their maximum capacity and draws on all its strength to flap
them. In a certain sense it makes its whole self movement, to soar
upwards and fly.
Hoping is flying, St Bonaventure says. But hope requires
that all our limbs become movement, projected to the true height of our
being, towards the promises of God. Whoever hopes, he affirms, "must
lift his head, turning his thoughts aloft, to the heights of our
existence, namely to God" (Sermo XVI, Dominica I Adv., Opera omnia,
In his speech Mr Mayor asked the question: "What will
Bagnoregio be tomorrow?". Indeed, we all wonder about our future and
that of the world, and this question has a lot to do with hope, for
which every human heart thirsts.
Yet in my Encyclical Spe Salvi, I noted that just
any kind of hope is not sufficient for facing and overcoming the
difficulties of the present time; a "trustworthy hope" is indispensable
which, in giving us the certainty of reaching a "great" goal, justifies
"the effort of the journey" (cf. n. 1).
Only the "great certitude of hope" assures us that
despite the personal failures and contradictions of history, overall the
"indestructible power of Love" always preserves us. Therefore, when this
hope supports us we never risk losing the courage to contribute, as did
the Saints, to the salvation of humanity, opening ourselves and the
world to allow God to enter: opening ourselves to truth, love and light
(cf. n. 35).
May St Bonaventure help us "to spread the wings" of hope
that urges us to be, like him, ceaseless seekers of God, poet of the
beauties of creation and witnesses of that Love and Beauty which "move
Thank you once again, dear friends, for your welcome.
While I assure you of my remembrance in prayer, through the intercession
of St Bonaventure and especially of Mary, the faithful Virgin and the
Star of Hope, I impart a special Apostolic Blessing to you which I
willingly extend to all the inhabitants of this beautiful land, rich in
Thank you for your attention.