This week I’ve been reading St Bonaventure’s book, The Journey of the Mind to God, or more simply, the Itinerarium. The original title, Itinerarium (Latin) literally means “roadmap”. The book is structured very tightly on this theme because the chapters are referred to as “steps”, therefore with each chapter one steps closer and closer to God. The book is short (38 pages), but VERY dense. Therefore, even Bonaventure warns the reader against turning his considerations into a sprint saying one, “ought not to run perfunctorily through these considerations but rather take his (sic) time and mull them over”. If the Itinerarium were a cake it would be the richest Boston Cheesecake you’ve ever tasted – so savour it, consume it slowly, enjoy each and every mouthful!
Itinerarium was written in 1259, two years after St Bonaventure became the 7thMinister of the Franciscan Order. The book is deeply embrewed in the spirit of St Francis, the “poor Man of Assisi” and therefore St Bonaventure has a keen eye for the beauty of God’s creation and the evangelical counsel of poverty. The language is poetic. The language is also richly metaphorical and symbolic.
For instance, on the topic of poverty Bonaventure admires Francis for choosing to be poor. This is different from being born poor. Francis was born rather wealthy but chose to be poor, renouncing his father’s business as a cloth merchant. Poverty, for both Bonaventure and Francis is more than material detachment. Fundamentally, being “poor” for them, is a gateway to the understanding of a more basic poverty. A poverty which acknowledges our deep spiritual impoverishment that cannot be overcome by human effort alone but by God’s grace, because in comparison to God every person is poor. Bonaventure does not want to downplay material poverty in anyway, ratherItinerarium maps out a path that leads us to the greatest treasure - God, who’s superabundant love constantly “brims over” for us. Itinerarium illuminates Christ’s parable of the “pearl of great price”; sell everything and go after it!
As you can probably guess the book comes highly recommended. I will finish with Bonaventure’s own words, “Man, (sic) blinded and bent over, sits in darkness and does not see the light of heaven, unless grace comes to his (sic) aid” (Itinerarium 1,7).