In light of the stigmatized Francis, Bonaventure suggests that consummation of the world can take place only when the human person is in union with Christ and, specifically, Christ Crucified, who is the perfection of divine love in the world. This means a constant spiritual program of conforming one’s life to the Crucified, imitating Christ in word and deed, entering into the events of his life and allowing this experience to open one up to the presence of God hidden in Christ.
Francis was a true lover of Christ, according to Bonaventure, because he was perfectly conformed to the Crucified Christ both in spirit and in flesh. The stigmatized Francis signifies to Bonaventure that if one desires happiness and peace, one must contemplate God and strive for mystical union through conformity to Christ Crucified, the Word of God.
Poverty invites us to go beyond ourselves, by taking from us everything on which we might tend to lean. It is not a matter of simply being poor but of having nothing that can prevent us from being wholly open to the grace of God. The practice of poverty, therefore, is the condition and sign of our openness to the mystery of God.
For Bonaventure, as for Scotus, Christ’s redemptive work relates to the overcoming of sin, but it does so in a way that brings God’s creative action in the world to completion. This notion of redemption-completion, underscoring the primacy of Christ, allows for a broader view of salvation, one focused not on sin but on the primacy of love. In this respect, redemption is creative; it is that healing of the brokenness within humanity and Creation that enables the cosmic process to be completed, in which completion itself is a dynamic process of continuous Creation that is oriented toward the new Creation. Redemption, therefore, is not being “saved from” but rather being made “whole for” the healing and wholeness of God’s Creation, and this wholeness is ultimately the transformation of created reality through the unitive power of God’s creative love.
Bonaventure highlights the idea that the one who dwells in Christ dwells in the other, because the fullness of who we are in Christ can only be found in the other. The difference of the other, therefore, was not an obstacle for Francis in his search for God but rather a celebration of God. For he found his own identity in God and he found God in the fragile, wounded flesh of his brothers and sisters. It is prayer, according to Bonaventure, that impelled Francis to see the world with new vision, a contemplative vision that penetrated the depths of reality. The world became Francis’ cloister because he found it to be permeated with the goodness of God.
The journey of prayer for Franciscans is the discovery of God at the center of our lives. We pray not to acquire a relationship with God as if acquiring something that did not previously exist. Rather, we pray to disclose the image of God in which we are created, the God within us, that is, the one in whom we are created and in whom lies the seed of our identity. We pray so as to discover what we already have—“the incomparable treasure hidden in the field of the world and of the human heart.(St. Clare)”
This intimacy of prayer—breathing with the Spirit of God—was at the heart of the life of Francis of Assisi. He advised his followers to have, above all things (supra omnia) the Spirit of the Lord and his holy manner of working, to pray always and to have a pure heart.