Today we celebrate the feast day of a saint who was known as the “Seraphic Doctor” of the Church – Saint Bonaventure.
While he may not be very widely known, St. Bonaventure contributed much as a leader to the Franciscans after being healed as a young boy through the intercession of St. Francis of Assisi from a dangerous illness. He was incredibly intelligent and contributed greatly to the philosophy and theology of the Church. He is known for bringing peace among his Order and being selected, along with Thomas Aquinas, “to help prepare the Second Ecumenical Council of Lyons, an ecclesial event aimed at re-establishing communion between the Latin and Greek Churches,” but he died before its completion. While St. Bonaventure contributed a great deal to the Church, we’d like to put a spotlight on his work for the theology of marriage.
St. Bonaventure studied the sacrament of marriage and spoke about the concupiscence (lust) of sex in regards to marriage and procreation. “Bonaventure explained that the Sacrament of Marriage provides a remedy against concupiscence, to both temper and excuse it, restores health by preserving temperance ‘which is threatened mainly by the weakness of the flesh but is saved through honest marriage.’”
Bonaventure also worked closely with Thomas Aquinas to teach that sex between spouses could be for “conjugal fidelity” as well as for procreation. This elaborated on St. Augustine’s teaching that sex outside the purpose of procreation was a sin. St. Bonaventure realized and contributed to Church teaching that sex can be used as a way to bring spouses closer together and express friendship as well as to welcome children.
As the Catholic Church, through Humanae Vitae, speaks out against contraception, St. Bonaventure’s work has given a platform and reason to teach couples the beauty of natural family planning. Through NFP, couples are able to postpone or achieve pregnancy, giving them a chance for marital love to bring them children when they are ready, yet also bring them closer together for when circumstances have led them to prayerfully postpone
St. Bonaventure’s work for marriage and the Church has helped develop an understanding of what sex within marriage should be for couples and we are grateful for the foundational support he has given to CCL to help teach and promote natural family planning.
(Learn more about St. Bonaventure here)