Grace to you!
Certain titles come with more respect than others. Even in a free world likes ours, where titles don’t matter to many, the title of Doctor has something reverential about it.
A medical doctor or a PhD holder seems to suggest some unique expertise, one for our health care, and the other for the academia. “Let’s consult the doctor” is a subtle way of deferring to their expertise.
You hear some saints with the title Doctor of the Church attached to their names and you may say, “Was he or she a doctorate degree holder, or a medical doctor?” A boy had asked a priest.
Not really. It’s a title for holy people who have shown at least three outstanding qualities—an exceptional life of holiness or witness, profound intellectual wit, and whose writings or teachings helped to clarify one aspect or the other of the mysteries of our faith as Christians. They added new knowledge to the faith-narrative, and their lifestyle was uniquely consistent in holiness.
Doctors of the Church have exceptional spiritual insights. Their words are revealing of some depth of God’s Word, their hearts are deeply in love with what they believe and what they say, and their actions embody these all in such a way that one could say, “They walk the talk.” The title is granted posthumously and post-canonization.
Currently, we have 35 Doctors of the Church. Saint Bonaventure (Italy, 1221–1274) whose memorial the Church celebrates today, and Saint Thomas Aquinas (Italy, 1225–1274) are two of them. A few of their providential similarities may serve for a pleasant digression.
They studied in the same school, University of Paris. They graduated the same year in 1252 and died the same year in 1274, (Saint Bonaventure died July 15, about four months after Saint Thomas Aquinas’s death in March 7). Weird, one may say.
Saint Aquinas was called the Angelic Doctor. Saint Bonaventure was also called the Seraphic Doctor. Remember Seraphic is the same as Angelic.
They were two different personalities, influenced by two different schools of thought, but united in one course of openness to God’s invitation to holiness of life. Saint Thomas was a Dominican, academically influenced by the philosophy of Aristotle. Saint Bonaventure was influenced by the spirituality of Saint Francis and the Platonic-Aristotelian philosophy.
Today is a special day in the life of the Church to remember Bonaventure’s example. He was a man with a unique sense of balance, rooted in love. He sought for a sense of balance between extreme asceticism of Saint Francis and social gospel of some of his later followers.
His story is a fascinating one to read. I am inspired by his life. I hope you would be inspired too. More so, his sense of balance between spirituality and social works, activism and contemplation, beauty and truth and good, could benefit us nowadays.
Who does not want a sense of balance in life?
Saint Bonaventure, pray for us.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[July 15: Memorial of Saint Bonaventure, Bishop and Doctor of the Church]
Fr. Maurice Emelu
Father Maurice provides a daily blog of reflections based on the bible readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration and developing your own thoughts. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.