FIOR (Franciscan Institute Outreach - Malta)

9. Franciscan Saints and Mystics (2)

B) Franciscan Theologians and Doctors of the Church

9.15 St. Anthony of Padua (1195-1231)

Fernando was born in Lisbon, Portugal, in 1195 in a noble and rich family. His father was Martino di Alfonso and his mother Maria. His house stood close to the cathedral church of Lisbon. As a young boy he studied in the cathedral school. When he was fifteen he entered the monastery of Sao Vincente, of the Canons Regular of St. Augustine. After some time he went to another monastery, Santa Cruz at Coimbra, where he continued his theological studies, especially Sacred Scripture and the Church Fathers. In 1220 he was ordained priest. During the same period he came to know about the first Friars Minor who had come from Italy, with the aim of crossing over to North Africa to evangelise the saracens. On 16 January 1220 these friars, led by frate Berardo, met a martyr's death at Marrakesh in Morocco. Upon venerating their relics which were brought to Coimbra, Fernando decided to join the new religious family and go to the North African missions. He took the name Anthony and left for the African coast. An illness and a storm were the cause of his setting foot on the island of Sicily. From the friary of Messina Anthony continued his journeying to Assisi, to take part in the General Chapter of Pentecost, 1221. The Minister of Romagna, frate Graziano, sent him to the hermitage of Montepaolo. During an ordination at Forlì, Anthony preached and made public his intense intellectual preparation in theology. He became an itinerant preacher in Northern Italy (Rimini, Bologna, Milan, Vercelli) and in France (Montpellier, Arles, Limoges, Toulouse, Bourges), preaching against the heresy of the Cathari. He also became Custos of the friars in France and Minister of the Province of Romagna. He remained famous for his Lenten sermons, especially the ones he held in Padova. Towards the end of his life he had various mystical experiences, and wrote down his "Sermones". After a long illness Anthony died quite young at Arcella, near Padova, in the monastery of the Poor Clares, on 13 June 1231. He was declared a saint by Gregory IX in record time, on 30 May 1232, Pentecost Sunday. In 1946 Pius XII proclaimed him Doctor of the Church. He is known as the "Evangelical Doctor".

9.16 St. Bonaventure of Bagnoregio (1217-1274)

Giovanni di Fidanza was born in 1217 in the small town of Civita di Bagnoregio, in the Lazio region of Italy. He himself says in his LegMaj, Prologue, that as a young boy he was miraculously liberated from a serious illness through the intercession of St. Francis. In 1219 the Friars Minor had arrived in Paris, led by friar Pacificus. After staying at Saint Denis they moved to Saint Germain des Prés and in 1234 founded the "magnus conventus" of study. Thus the Franciscans entered the university of Paris. Bonaventure was sent as a student to Paris. He was disciple of Alexander of Hales, who entered the Franciscan Order in 1236. Bonaventure himself became a Franciscan in 1243. Bonaventure became a Bachelor of Arts (1243-1248), and then a Biblical Bachelor (1248). After acquiring his licentiate in 1253 he became a regent master of the Franciscan School of Paris in 1254. But the university secular masters, who were bitterly in conflict with the Mendicant Orders, only recognised this title in 1257. By then Bonaventure had been elected Minister General of the Order on 2 February 1257. After a period of retreat on La Verna, Bonaventure composed his famous mystical treatise "Itinerarium Mentis in Deum" (The Journey of the Soul into God) in 1259. As Minister General he remained famous for his Narbonne Constitutions (1260) and for his Major Life of St. Francis (1263). His other spiritual and mystical works include "De triplici via", "Soliloquium" and "Lignum vitae". As a theologian he is also author of various Commentaries on the Gospels and of the "Breviloquium", as well as of works concerning the validity of the evangelical life of the Mendicants, particularly the Disputed Questions on Evangelical Poverty and the "Apologia Pauperum". In 1273 Bonaventure was nominated Cardinal Bishop of Albano, with the aim of preparing the way for the Council of Lyon summoned by Gregory X. Bonaventure was present for the opening sessions of the Council, but died on 15 July 1274 and was buried in the Franciscan conventual church of Lyon. Bonaventure was declared a saint on 14 April 1482 by the Franciscan Pope Sixtus IV. In 1588 the Franciscan Conventual Pope Sixtus V declared Bonaventure Doctor of the Church. He is known as the "Seraphic Doctor".

9.17 Blessed John Duns Scotus (1265-1308)

On 10 September 1224 the first Friars Minor set foot in Dover (Thomas of Eccleston, Chronicle "De Adventu Fratrum Minorum in Angliam"). From there the friars soon spread to Canterbury, Cambridge, Oxford, where they also had a proper "studium". Later on they even arrived in Scotland. In 1265 John was born in Duns, Scotland. His paternal uncle was Elias, who was leader of the Vicariate of Scotland. In 1278 John Duns entered the Franciscan school at Haddington, and joined the Franciscan Order at Dumfries. He was sent for higher studies in Oxford and Paris. On 17 March 1291 he was ordained priest in Northampton by Oliver Sutton, bishop of Lincoln. He became a teacher of philosophy and theology at Cambridge and Oxford. After teaching also in the Franciscan School of Paris he had to return to England after refusing to sign a petition in favour of the king of France against Pope Boniface VIII in 1303. Scotus was reinstated in his post in Paris in 1305, upon the recommendation of Gonsalvus of Valboa, Minister General of the Order. In 1307 he again left Paris and went to Köln, at the "studium" of the friars. He died in this city on 8 November 1308. John Duns remained famous as the theologian of the Franciscan School, as a defender of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary, and was also venerated in the Franciscan Order, in Köln and in Nola, in Italy. On 6 July 1991, Pope John Paul II declared the cult of John Duns Scotus as a Blessed and rendered liturgical honours to him on 20 March 1993.



© copyright FIOR-Malta
Text by Fr. Noel Muscat ofm


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