Little is known of the childhood of this successor of St. Francis of Assisi. Saint Bonaventure was born near Viterbo in the year 1221. His took the habit of the Friars Minor, and studied under the "Unanswerable" Doctor, Alexander of Hales. He himself is known as the "Seraphic" Doctor, teaching theology and Holy Scripture from 1248 to 1257.
St. Bonaventure was called by his priestly obligations to preach, and this he did with much vigor, engendering fire in those who listened to him. While he was at the University of Paris, he wrote the Commentary on the Sentences of Peter Lombard, covering the field of Scholastic Theology. This time in Paris was difficult though, as there was great jealousy against the medicant friars for many reasons including academic success and the ease withwhich they reproofed the worldliness around them.
Battling books were issued between the groups, with William of St. Amour leading the secular clergy, and St. Bonaventure defending the poverty of life of the Friars. Finally, Pope Alexander IV sent cardinals to settle the manner, and the books of William of St. Amour were burned, the Friars reinstated, and the attack suspended. In the following year, St. Bonaventure and St. Thomas Aquinas received their Doctorates of Theology together. (Good company) Whereas Thomas' work centers on the intellect, St. Bonaventure's texts are of a more spiritual nature, including Concerning the Perfection of Life, Soliloquy and Concerning the Threefold Way. He forms the basis of the Franciscan school of thought.
This same year of his Doctorate, 1257, St. Bonaventure was elected minister general of the Franciscans. He immediately set upon a standardization of the Order, since it had fractured into sections ranging from permissive and lax to excessively rigorist. In setting the Order straight, he formed a Constitution following a middle to conservative path. This reformed and disciplined the lax, while tempering the excesses of the rigorists. In many ways he acted almost as if he were Francis, and is still considered the Second Founder of the Order.
The saint refused the first promotion to the Episcopate, but was induced into the Cardinalate of Albano in 1273. Gregory X instructed the Saint to prepare the General Council of Lyons, and during the proceedings St. Bonaventure proved most crucial in reuniting the Greeks Catholics with Rome. He also attending the last General Chapter of the Order during the breaks in the Council. There Saint Bonaventure preached at the Reunion Mass after the council, and then died suddenly in the night of July 14-15, 1274.