Although written primarily for women living in Religion, St. Bonaventure s treatise on Holiness of Life (De Perfectione Vitae ad Sorores) will strongly appeal to every Catholic heart. Its value as a manual of spiritual reading, at once elevating, inspiriting and practical, can hardly be over-estimated. It opens an easy way to a sound and profitable self-knowledge; it wins the soul to Christian humility, and to an unworldliness which is the secret of a contented and joyful heart; it teaches a method of contemplation on the ...
Although written primarily for women living in Religion, St. Bonaventure s treatise on Holiness of Life (De Perfectione Vitae ad Sorores) will strongly appeal to every Catholic heart. Its value as a manual of spiritual reading, at once elevating, inspiriting and practical, can hardly be over-estimated. It opens an easy way to a sound and profitable self-knowledge; it wins the soul to Christian humility, and to an unworldliness which is the secret of a contented and joyful heart; it teaches a method of contemplation on the Passion of Our Lord, full of devout attractiveness; it reveals the secret of fruitful and heartfelt prayer. In a word it treats of the great and permanent things in spiritual life and practice, and does this with such living fervour that it sets our hearts on fire. There are no gloomy spaces darkened by the shadow of that Calvinism that was to come; no hard lines of rigour to remind us of Jansenism. Everywhere we find the cheerful seriousness of Catholicism, the reflection of the soul of a saint who lived in the bright and spacious days of that glorious and supremely Catholic century, the Thirteenth. To those acquainted with the life of St. Bonaventure his very name will be a sufficient recommendation of the treatise now translated. John Gerson, the learned and pious Chancellor of the University of Paris, who has been reputed by many to be the author of the Imitation of Christ, set the highest value on the writings of St. Bonaventure. He regarded Bonaventure as the most perfect of the University teachers. He did not know if the University had ever produced his equal. He applied to him the words of Our Lord concerning St. John the Baptist, "He was a burning and a shining light." Therefore he compared him to Cherub and to Seraph to Cherub, for the brightness of his intellect, to Seraph, for the burning fire of his heart. He had not found any teaching more elevating and salutary than his. He admired him for keeping clear of curious and useless questions, and for being solid, safe and devout in all he said. To the testimony of one who knew St. Bonaventure in his writings, it will be interesting to add the testimony of one who knew him also in life. This was Peter of Tarentaise. He was a Dominican, and had been professor in the University of Paris, where he won the title of Doctor Famosissimus. He became successively Archbishop of Lyons, Cardinal Bishop of Ostia, and Supreme Pontiff. He is beatified, and known as Blessed Innocent V. While yet Cardinal Bishop of Ostia, he had taken together with St. Bonaventure a prominent part in the Council of Lyons. St. Bonaventure died before the Council had concluded, and when Pope and Council attended the funeral service in the Franciscan Church in Lyons, Peter of Tarentaise preached the funeral sermon. His feeling towards Bonaventure is shown in his choice of text; for he chose those tender and touching words with which David had lamented the death of his friend Jonathan. All who listened to his discourse would have approved the description of Bonaventure as one who was always gentle, affable, humble, pleasing to all, so that all who knew him held him in high esteem, and had great affection for him. St. Bonaventure s writings reflect his character. Like the Saint, himself in life, they have a magnetic power which draws the heart to a desire of higher things. They conquer, not by force of eloquent language, but by the persuasive attractiveness of a calm and beautiful spirit. The transparent humility of a great soul puts to shame all the vanity of our littleness. His thought glows frequently with mystic splendour, which warms and inspires. The treatise on Holiness of Life is written in an easy and familiar style. It is like a friendly talk. The mysticism is subdued; and there is not wanting, as in the section on silence, an element of keen observation and humorous sarcasm.
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