St Bonaventure

Cardinal-Bishop of Albano (Italy), Doctor of the Church (entered heaven in1274)

Dear Vinnie,

I won’t say your political ambitions are intrinsically unhealthy, but I will say that they are dangerous.  Don’t get me wrong, I am glad to the tenth degree that you are having the “time of your life” interning for an up-and-coming senator there on Capitol Hill.  And I am also glad – really, I’m not just saying this – that you are leaning in the direction of politics as you consider career possibilities.  Heaven knows the world of politics always needs a few courageous people willing to stand by their Catholic convictions.  But your ambition could easily go awry, leading you to moral compromise.  I am certain you know what I mean.  But never fear, today’s saint is here, and he’s got the answer.  To appreciate that answer, however, you need to know a bit about him.

Bonaventure followed in the footsteps of the great St Francis of Assisi and eventually became the minister general of all the Franciscans, codifying their rule, resolving internal strife, and earning the title of “second founder.”  Blessed Pope Gregory X named him cardinal and summoned him to the Council of Lyons, where the saint so perspicaciously and charitably ran the proceedings that he instigated a reunion between the Catholics and Orthodox (after Bonaventure died, however, the Orthodox returned to their schismatic ways).

In addition to brilliant administration and delicate diplomacy, he showed spiritual eloquence and theological excellence in his prolific literary output.  He received his doctorate from the University of Paris together with St Thomas Aquinas, the two of whom brought scholastic philosophy and theology to its enduring climax.  And to top it all off, his Christian virtue ran so deep and was so contagious that the future Pope Innocent V said the following in his eulogy: “No one ever beheld Bonaventure who did not conceive a great regard and affection for him; and even strangers were desirous to follow his counsel and advice, simply from hearing him speak: for he was gentle, courteous, humble, pleasing to all, compassionate, prudent, chaste and adorned with all virtues.”  This “Seraphic Doctor,” as he was called (“doctor” was what they called all professors at the time), accomplished all of this before dying at the young age of 53.

Here was a man who achieved more in a short life than most politicians even dream of achieving in an entire career.  And how did he do it?  He focused all his talents on one thing – one thing only.  Let him explain it to you in his own words: “Christ is the way: Christ is the door.  By Christ we mount, by Christ we are borne, for he is ‘the mercy seat placed upon the ark of God,’ ‘the mystery hidden from all ages’.  A man should turn his face to this mercy-seat, should look at Christ hanging on the cross, should look with faith, hope, love, wonder joy, appreciation, praise and jubilation…”

That was Bonaventure’s secret.  And I think it’s valid for you too.  If you keep your heart and soul fixed on the greatest King of all time, the trappings of senatorial splendor will never be able to coax you off the path of True Success.  Say hello to the monuments for me.

Your devoted uncle,


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