Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Deacon Keith Fournier

10/4/2012 (2 years ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

This pattern of Francis' life is to be imitated, embraced and appropriated in every human life.

Francis loved and lived the Sacred Scriptures. He was a man in a dynamic relationship with the Living Word, Jesus Christ. Through an intimate communion of prayer - and the continual prayerful reading of the Scriptures - Francis thus became a living letter of Christ for others.He calls us to do the same.

Highlights

By Deacon Keith Fournier

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

10/4/2012 (2 years ago)

Published in Living Faith

Keywords: St. Francis, St. Bonaventure, Major Legend, Franciscan, rebuild my church, holiness, penance, stigmata, La Verna, holiness, happiness, Deacon Keith Fournier


CHESAPEAKE, VA (Catholic Online) - The "Major Legend" written by St. Bonaventure is not a biography, at least in the strictest sense. It does not follow a chronological order of the life of Francis. St. Bonaventure writes of the little poor man of Assisi from firsthand experience.

There is so much to write about in this marvelous account of the life of one of my own personal heroes, the saint whose witness led me back to the Church. However, I will focus on one aspect of Bonaventure's tribute to Francis. In the beginning of Chapter Eleven of his eyewitness account of his friend's life, he speaks of Francis' love for the Bible, the Sacred Scripture:

"Unflagging zeal for prayer with a continuing exercise of virtue had led the man of God to such serenity of mind that although he had no expertise in Sacred Scripture through learning, his intellect, nevertheless enlightened by the splendor of eternal light, probed the depths of scripture with remarkable incisiveness."

"For his genius, pure and unstained, penetrated hidden mysteries, and where the knowledge of teachers stands outside, the passion of the lover entered. Whenever he read the Sacred Books, and something struck his mind, he imprinted it tenaciously on his memory because he did not grasp in vain what his attentive mind heard for he would mull over it with affection and constant devotion."

Francis loved and lived the Sacred Scriptures. He was a man in a dynamic relationship with the Living Word, Jesus Christ. Through an intimate communion of prayer - and the continual prayerful reading of the Scriptures - Francis thus became a living letter of Christ for others. (2 Cor. 3: 1-3) He calls us to do the same.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us that "Christianity is the religion of the "Word" of God, "not a written and mute word, but incarnate and living. If the Scriptures are not to remain a dead letter, Christ, the eternal Word of the living God, must, through the Holy Spirit, open (our) minds to understand the Scriptures." (CCC# 108) This was the lived experience of Francis of Assisi and can become ours as well.
 
Bonaventure's account of his friend, mentor and spiritual father weaves a captivating picture of a poor, little man from Assisi who fully lived the life of grace and was completely conformed to Christ. It sets that life before the reader as an example to follow, imbibe and imitate - a life of penance, conversion, renunciation, self emptying, transforming and redemptive love.

These themes are developed by Bonaventure, a theologian of the highest order, in beautifully inspiring writing which invites the reader into his or her own encounter with the source of Francis' profound spirituality, Jesus Christ.

Bonaventure presents a Francis conformed and configured to crucified love over time through an ever deepening, dynamic relationship of living faith which manifested the timeless kingdom in the heart of the world. This pattern of Francis' life is to be imitated, embraced and appropriated in every human life. The life of the little poor man is a light from heaven meant to illuminate our own lives and guide us into the fire of God's love.
 
Living faith, like the faith demonstrated in Francis, mediates the mystery of God's loving plan. It can also open our spiritual eyes to behold God's design in the Book of Creation, the Book of Scripture. Bonaventure writes of Francis:

"Aroused by everything to divine love, he rejoiced in all the works of the Lord's hands and through their delightful display he rose into their life-giving reason and cause. In beautiful things he contuited Beauty itself and through the footprints impressed in things he followed his beloved everywhere, out of them all making a ladder through which he could climb up to lay hold of him who is utterly desirable"

Bonaventure offers a lesson book by telling the story of Francis in this way. It leads the reader to the One whom Francis loved, served, imitated and became. At the center of it all we find the Crucified Christ, the Word made flesh, Love Incarnate, stretched out on the wooden altar, which is the ladder of ascent and descent. This crucified Christ is the Center of the Universe and brings about its recapitulation as He is poured out in kenosis.

Philippians 2: 1-12 records an early, perhaps even pre-Pauline hymn that is central to the entire framework of the Major Legend because it reveals the "kenosis", the self emptying of the Second Person of the Trinity and is the very core of the response Francis made to the continual invitation he received from Jesus:

"Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus, Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross."

"Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father".

Jesus is the living Word sent from the Father with an ongoing mission to bring all men and women - and the entire cosmos - back to the Father. He is the One through whom the world was first created and in whom it is now being re-created. This pattern of emanation and return, this recapitulation of all things in Christ, is prominent in Patristic literature, the writing of the early fathers of the undivided Christian Church.

It is also foundational to the theology developed by Bonaventure in the Major Legend. Most importantly, it is embodied in the little Poor man who Bonaventure wants the world to see through reading the Major Legend. He compiled the Major Legend to show the world Francis, whose life is a path to follow to nuptial union with Jesus and the fullness of Trinitarian communion.

Francis teaches us, through the Book of his own life, that all men and women are called and capacitated by grace to return back to the Father through the Son, moving from image into likeness. In addition, that like him we bring the cosmos along as microcosm and mediator.

The Crucified Christ is embraced by Francis with a self emptying love so passionate and consuming that he becomes the One whom he desires. Through grace he also experiences transformed human desires and cultivates the spiritualized senses of the hierarchic man. As his response to God unfolds, Francis ultimately offered Himself with and in Christ for the world. This is the fullness of the meaning of crucified and cruciform love.

The Major Legend challenges the reader to view the life of Francis as the vocation of every man and every woman who responds to the invitation of Jesus. Using words as symbols, the Seraphic Doctor shows Francis, a word walking, as a model for all of us who bear the name Christian.

Francis thus becomes a word from the Word. Bonaventure was a friend and a disciple of Francis. When he looked at Francis he saw Jesus Christ. Bonaventure, like his friend Francis, was also a mystic. To him the Spirit of Francis is the Spirit of Jesus and "witness to Jesus is the Spirit of Prophecy". (Revelations 19:10)

Reference to the imagery of the Book of Revelations is laced throughout the Major Legend. It was written in an age when that book and other biblical books of the apocalyptic genre were of great interest and were being used, in various ways, to interpret the times.

The full flourishing of the work of grace in Francis is the stigmata, a Divine seal imprinted in his body. The Cross revealed in the life and stigmata of Francis is the Cross of Jesus Christ, which is the ladder between heaven and earth and the altar of sacrifice upon which we are all invited to die. As the Seraphic Doctor, Bonaventure, wrote in the prologue of the Major Legend:

"The grace of God has appeared in these last days in his servant Francis to all who are truly humble and lovers of holy poverty, who, while venerating in him God's superabundant mercy, learn by his example to reject whole heartedly ungodliness and worldly passions, to live in conformity with Christ and to thirst after blessed hope with unflagging desire."

With these words, which incorporate St Paul's letter to Titus 2:11, Bonaventure begins the Major Legend and lays out the challenges to the reader to follow in the footsteps of the little poor man of Assisi by walking with him up the mountain of Calvary and finding the path to transfiguration.

The Major Legend was completed by Bonaventure after his own experience on the mountain of LaVerna, the place where Francis received the wounds of Christ, the stigmata. This is the place where Bonaventure writes, "that angelic man who descended from the mountain (LaVerna) carrying with him an image of the crucified not handmade on tablets of stone or wood, but inscribed in the members of his flesh by the finger of the Living God"

The full revelation of this kind of realized eschatology in Francis became most clear to Bonaventure on La Verna. This experience, where Francis was stigmatized, was the Mount of Transfiguration in the life and ministry of Francis. There he became joined to the Transfigured Christ, who was crucified in and for love.

LaVerna is what theologians call a hermeneutic, the lens through which Francis' life and meaning comes together for Bonaventure. The stigmata given on that Mountain is the seal confirming in the flesh of Francis the fullness of grace that was present in his life. Francis was a sign, a human sacramental of sorts, and the exemplar of evangelical perfection.

He was, by grace, transformed into Jesus the Word, thus becoming what I call a word walking. This transfiguration thus also becomes a lens through which the life, spiritual progression, holiness and ministry of Francis comes into sharp focus for Bonaventure. He has his own experience on that same mountain and is never the same.

This unique connection between the Mountain of Golgotha and the Mountain of Transfiguration is unique to Francis - and unique to the theology developed by Bonaventure. Certainly, the Mount of Transfiguration is the central place in Eastern Christian Theology with the Eastern emphasis on deification as a way to articulate the work of transforming grace. The Incarnation is viewed in the East as including the entire Christ event from conception to Ascension. 

Yet, there is little or no reference to a connection between these two mountains in Eastern Christian sources. Only in the Christological anthropology developed in the work of St. Nicholas Kavasalis, a fourteenth century Byzantine layman and mystic, could we even find a hint of this kind of connection:

"It was when he mounted the cross and died and rose again that human freedom was won, that human form and beauty were created." This is a place for further research on the synergies between Eastern and Western mystical and spiritual theology - and their meeting in Bonaventure's theology. I hope to be able to do it.

On this Feast of St. Francis, St. Bonaventure's Major Legend introduces us to Francis through the Eyes of a Friend and Eye Witness. 

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


Copywriter 2015 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for June 2015
Universal:
That immigrants and refugees may find welcome and respect in the countries to which they come.
Evangelization: That the personal encounter with Jesus may arouse in many young people the desire to offer their own lives in priesthood or consecrated life.


Rosaries, Crosses, Prayer Cards and more... by Catholic Shopping .com


Comments


More Living Faith

Itinerary of the Pope's trip to Cuba and the U.S.A. and his visit to the United Nations

Image of Pope Francis boarding airline.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

VATICAN CITY - The Vatican on Tuesday released the comprehensive itinerary for Pope Francis' journey to the United States and Cuba, including his schedule for Philadelphia for Sept. 26-27.Here is the Holy Father's complete schedule for his September visit to Cuba and ... continue reading


The Ultimate Bucket List: 20 things to do before joining God in Heaven Watch

Image of Add your own bucket list goals.

By Nikky Andres (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Bucket listing has become a popular trend within social media sites and all over the world, ranging from reading best-selling books, to traveling to exotic places on holiday, favorite places to eat, enchanting tourist destinations and so forth. MUNTINLUPA, PHILIPPINES ... continue reading


Religious lawyer calls out to people of faith warning what will happen if they don't 'STAND UP' following gay marriage ruling Watch

Image of Photo credit: Dave Crenshaw - Eastern Oklahoma Catholic

By Linky C. (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The Supreme Court gave in to LGBT rights advocates on June 26 and legalized same-sex marriage throughout the United States. Now the entire United States court system must recognize the union of two same-sex individuals as legal, creating a social media frenzy around ... continue reading


'Holy Grail' recovered after stolen by burglars Watch

Image of One depiction of the Holy Grail.

By Nikky Andres (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A year after it was stolen, the police finally recovered a wooden relic believed by some to be the Holy Grail. In July 2014, the invaluable medieval relic was stolen during a raid in Weston Under Penyard near Ross-on-Wye in Herefordshire. The Nanteos Cup has now been ... continue reading


Medjugorje Marian apparitions ruled FALSE? Watch

Image of According to the reports, the congregation did acknowledge Medjugorje as a place of prayer and devotion that can be visited by pilgrims for prayer, though without contacting the supposed visionaries or participating in their

By CNA/EWTN News

If reports in Italian media outlets are to be believed, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith met June 24 to discuss the alleged Marian apparitions in Medjugorje, reaching the conclusion that they are inauthentic, but recognizing the site as a place of ... continue reading


'It can even be morally necessary' Pope Francis reacts to family separation and divorce ahead of the 2015 World Meeting of Families Watch

Image of Pope Francis continues to take interesting stances on traditional Catholic values.

By Linky C. (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The Catholic Church's point of view when it comes to troubled families and marriage is continuously under scrutiny. Pope Francis released a statement claiming it may be "morally necessary" for families to separate, creating a change in the tone of the Catholic Church's ... continue reading


New study shows close relationships with God positively affects psychological well-being Watch

Image of

By Atarah Haely (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Having the belief that God is intimately involved in an individual's ventures positively affects his/her psychological well-being, according to newly published research. The researchers add that the positive relationship between the two was only observed in Christians, ... continue reading


3 damaging church cultures churchgoers need to look out for Watch

Image of Some churches can grow into a culture that actually hurts members, rather than helping them.

By Atarah Haely (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

After speaking with two seasoned pastors on the topic of church revitalization and growth and reflecting on the conversations with a friend, Ron Edmonson, Senior Pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, KY. and church planter gathered a few observations on ... continue reading


Infallible? Informal? How binding is the new encyclical on Catholics? Watch

Image of

By Adelaide Mena, CNA/EWTN News

With the release of Pope Francis' encyclical on the environment this week came a wave of controversy over the Pope's statements about climate change, species extinction and other scientific topics. Washington D.C. (CNA) - Alongside the debate came a resounding ... continue reading


FLASHING WARNING LIGHTS: Author's five signs the end of time is near Watch

Image of

By Atarah Haely (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

"Target Israel," a new book tackles and illustrates the role of Israel in the Biblical prophecy. However, the author suggests there are five signs present in modern day that tell us the end is already near. He claims those signs can be seen in the Scriptures, but ... continue reading


All Living Faith News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Genesis 19:15-29
15 When dawn broke the angels urged Lot on, 'To your ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 26:2-3, 9-10, 11-12
2 Probe me, Yahweh, examine me, Test my heart and my ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 8:23-27
23 Then he got into the boat followed by his ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for June 30th, 2015 Image

First Martyrs of the See of Rome
June 30: The holy men and women are also called the Protomartyrs of ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter