Franciscan Intellectual Tradition, Saint Bonaventure, Saints, The Franciscans, Theology

Saint Bonaventure on the Human Person

Saint Bonaventure Pic 2“Bonaventure clearly places humans in an intimate relationship with the created world. Yet each person has distinct characteristics that enable him/her to function differently from other creatures. However, human distinctiveness does not separate humans from the created order. In fact, the uniqueness of humans allows and requires them to respond to God in a particular way, namely, to mediate between God and all other creatures. Humans are to be advocates for other creatures, giving them voice before God and the world. On the other hand, other creatures inspire and thrill humans, arousing their awareness of the magnificence of God and inspiring contemplation. Certainly, in our ecologically threatened world, humans are also called to a profound reverence for one another and for the environment, since no humans can live in an unhealthy milieu.”

“Humans are the similitude of God, the crown of creation. Created in the image and likeness of God, humans bear the greatest similarity to God. They are body-spirit creatures that know God and are known to God both innately and experientially. Human bodies are integral to human self-understanding and these bodies are good. Thus, there is no place for dualism in Bonaventure’s notion of the human person. Both social and natural sciences in our day have demonstrated how intricately all aspects of the human person affect one another-social, physical, intellectual, emotional, etc. When the interrelationship of these aspects is neglected, whether in interpersonal relationships or in the structures of societies, quality of life is diminished. In fact, dualistic ideas are at the root of many serious social, political and human rights issues, such as racism, ethnic superiority or sexism. Because all humans bear God’s image and likeness equally, dualistic claims of ‘superiority’ or ‘inferiority,’ smack of false consciousness, false reality and sinfulness.”

“Certainly, the role of humans as person ‘in the middle’ dictates that the kind of power they choose to use needs to be ‘power with’ others – supporting, encouraging and enabling – rather than ‘power over’ others – intimidating, coercing or threatening. Because true human identity is to be found in the imitation of Christ, human use of personal power and authority is necessarily modified. There is no place for arrogance in human interactions. Rather, humans need to join in humble service and mutual relationships, grounded in the reality that all of their gifts, talents and resources flow from God, the Fountain Source of All Goodness. As the poor Christ ministered to the poor and the outcast of his day, so too must humans serve others in their own time and place.”

“Because humans participate in the material world, they are historical beings. They grow, change and develop. Through their relationships with Christ, other humans, other earth creatures and through their reflection, they become increasingly more God-like and free. The more perfectly related people become, the more human they become. There is hope for humanity – room for repentance, reconciliation, renewal and restoration. Humans need only choose to stay open, attentive and engaged with God, with one another and with the entire created world.”


– Lucas G. Westman

  • All quotations are taken from, Dawn M. Nothwehr, O.S.F., The Franciscan View of the Human Person: Some Central Elements 

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