Sunday, July 15, 2012

St. John Fidanza

Today is the feast of St. Giovanni di Fidanza (although, of course, liturgically it is superceded by Sunday), but we never call him that. Instead we call him St. Lucky. According to legend, when he was a baby, he was rather sickly, so his parents took him to see St. Francis of Assisi. St. Francis took him in his arms and exclaimed, "O buona ventura!" And that is the name that stuck: Good Fortune. The legend is late and apocryphal. We actually don't know why he had the name Bonaventura, but he himself did claim that he had been saved from a deathly illness by the prayers of St. Francis, which is why he went into the Franciscan Order. He eventually became head of the Order at one of its most difficult times, and died at the Council of Lyons. According to legend he was poisoned, but that, too, is a late and apocryphal tale. The beginning and end of Bonaventure's life are lost in legend, I suppose.

Here is a peculiar passage in which we find Bonaventure telling a joke about bishops (to make a serious point, of course):

The King of Anglia asked a certain bishop what the two horns on his mitre signified. He responded, and well, that they signified the Two Testaments, which bishops ought to know. "And what do those two hanging things (pendicula), which hang behind the back, signify?" He responded that they signified ignorance of both, 'because we know neither one nor the other, but throw both behind the back.'" And in this he spoke badly.

[Bonaventure, Collationes de Septem Donis Spiritus Sancti, Collatio IV de dono scientiae, 17.]

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