Simple Sanctity

There's St. Francis of Assisi - and then there're the saints of the Franciscan order. On July 15, the Church commemorates St. Bonaventure. He seems a far cry from the stark simplicity of St. Francis, and yet the brilliant Bonaventure - bishop, cardinal, minister-general of the Franciscan order, saint, and doctor of the Church - certainly lived the Franciscan way as best he could. For example, the Catholic Encyclopedia at tells us:

On 23 June, 1273, Bonaventure, much against his will, was created Cardinal-Bishop of Albano, by Gregory X. It is said that the pope's envoys who brought him the cardinal's hat found the saint washing dishes outside a convent near Florence and were requested by him to hang it on a tree nearby until his hands were free to take it.

That's the sort of humble service from Christians that Pope Francis seeks and models for all of us. He's obeying the command and the example of Jesus, who washed the feet of His disciples and commanded them to do likewise (Jn 13:1-17); who emptied himself, taking on the form of a slave, and was obedient, even to death on the Cross (Phil 2:3-11); who was God almighty and condescended to become man, a creature, a mere nothing next to the Divine Being. God washed our feet, and cleanses the dirtiest parts of us every time we go to Confession. God goes down to the depths every time He comes to dwell within us in the Eucharist and lift us up to the highest heights of divine life and love. God serves us all the time, each moment, each breath, as He sustains us in existence - as He sustains all things in existence.

I was in a philosophy class once where the professor was challenging the traditional view of God. He asked who could really accept the notion of a God who was omnipresent, sustaining all things? I shrugged and said I didn't see the objection. He pointed to the trash can and said something along the lines of "Can you really worship a being who is present in the trash? Do you really believe that God is in the trash can?" I nodded and said I could. He looked half startled, half offended, and quickly turned the conversation to other things.

The humility of God the Creator, God the Incarnate Son, and God the Sanctifying Holy Spirit offends pride, offends our sense of dignity, offends the devil, and helped provoke the fall of the angels - and yet it is that humility which saves us, which gives us existence from moment to moment, day to day, in this life and the next. It is that humility and God's grace which made Bonaventure a simple saint, in spite of his intellectual brilliance, positions of authority, and high achievement. It is God's humility and grace, God's merciful love, which offers us all the path of the Gospel to forgiveness, redemption, salvation, and sanctification.

Let us ask Sts. Bonaventure and Francis to pray for us that we all might become simple, humble servants of God and neighbor, and thereby loving brethren of Jesus Christ our Lord.


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