Marcil George ,
Recensione: CAMILLE BIIRUBE, De la philosophic a la sagesse chez saint Bonaventure et Roger Bacon. Roma: Istituto Storico dei Cappuccini,
Antonianum, 59/1-2 (1984) p. 317-320
Fr. Camille Berube, a French-Canadian Capuchin, has been for a couple of decades a member of the Istituto Storico which publishes the very scholarly Collectanea Franciscana and the appended Bibliographia. In fact the present book is ample witness to those decades of hard and high level scholarly achievement. Many of the articles that comprise the book were previously published in the Collectanea between 1968 and 1976. But also Fr. Berube's manner of writing bears the touch of a very capable and thorough bibliographer, reviewing as he goes all the significant literature in the area of his immediate concern.
The purpose of publishing this book, and consequently of republishing these several articles, was to gather the articles into a single volume and show to the world the magnitude and importance of Fr. Berube's contribution to Bonaventurian studies. I personally would like to thank the Istituto Storico for doing so. Through the book I discovered several articles that I had not previously noted.
As to the unity of the author's thought it is much larger than the present work. He has over the years centered his research around the two great Franciscan scholastics, Bonaventure and Duns Scotus. His articles on Scotus have more recently been republished in 1983 in De I'homme a Dieu. The article on the theory of illumination in that book could just as well have been fitted into this one. In other words his work on Bona
venture spills into his labors on Scotus and vice versa. Saying that I do not mean to impugn the unity of the present work on St. Bonaventure. In fact I admire this book very much and recommend it to readers interested in St. Bonaventure. It brings one up to date fairly well, as it were, and makes several new contributions to Bonaventurian studies in philosophy, theology and to the question of Bonaventure's influence through the centuries.
Fr. Berube's interest in St. Bonaventure did not end with the publication of this book either. He published « Symbolisme, image et coincidence des contraires chez saint Bonaventure, ». another article reviewing more recent works on the Seraphic Doctor in the Collectanea Franciscana 50 (1980) 235-51. He says there about Ewert Cousin's book that he does not recognize a real coincidence of opposites in Bonaventure and secondly he does not see this coincidence, though present as a rhetorical tool, as at all pivotal. After reading Fr. Berube's book it is easy to see why he would not find the coincidence of opposites to be significant. He finds too many important things happening in Bonaventure's thought that don't in the slightest way suggest the coincidence of opposites.
His book, From Philosophy to Wisdom, labors over three questions. One, made famous by Gilson, deals with the nature of Christian philosophy. Gilson tried, and with great success, to make Bonaventure respectable to a large readership. He did so by making him into more of a rationalist and system builder than Thomas Aquinas. Fr. Berube is thankful to Gilson for saving Bonaventure from oblivion but argues that the whole enterprise was a great mistake, which he calls a felix culpa. Though a fair system builder in his early years. Bonaventure grew to be very anti-philosophical as the years dragged on. But at no point did he ever create an independent philosophy.
The second question, not very different, is concerned with the nature of the theological endeavor. Here, Bonaventure, like most theologians of his time, did system building in the style of St. Anselm. They justified their work by the adage, Fides quaerens intellectum, and by the university ruling that made the textbook of Peter Lombard obligatory. But Bonaventure's heart was elsewhere; he preferred a theology that was more affective and one that was more closely linked to direct meditation on the Scriptures. The expose of Fr. Berube is quite clever and also rather long. He extends the question by following it through all the writings of Bonaventure showing its development, and further by establishing a somewhat fictitious dialogue between Bonaventure and Roger Bacon. The two agreed essentially on the priority of Scripture in the theological enterprise but disagreed violently over the need of auxiliary sciences to deepen scriptural understanding.
The third question, more philosophical, centers on the notion of God and how one gets to know God. On this question, Fr. Berube, along with his co-worker Fr. Servus Gieben, claims, and I believe justifiably, to have found a text that gives an historical explanation to Bonaventure's doctrine and wording on God the first known. The text is an earlier tract by Gilbert of Tournai which espouses the same view. So the author has Bonaventure evolving here too from a more directly Augustinian position that focuses on the soul, image of God, to a new stance that one finds in the difficult 3rd and 5th chapters of the Itinera-rium mentis in Deum and afterwards.
This book is really a kind of encyclopedia of Bonaventurian scholarship in this century. It works away from the Gilson thesis that Bonaventure structured a system and then remained true to it. It then lays out and reports on many of the more current debates that seem to end by talking about the evolution in Bonaventure's thinking — evolution in his attitude toward philosophy and Aristotle in particular, evolution in his attitude toward the prophetic eschatology of Joachim of Fiore, evolution toward a more pronounced Christocentricism, evolution toward a more scripturally based theology and spirituality (pp. 259-60). Not only is Fr. Berube reporting here on the constructive work that others have been doing, he is showing that he has been and is still making important contributions himself.
And by way of conclusion it is not a small matter that the final essay — a very original piece — elaborates on the use of Bonaventure's theological thought and works by the Capuchins through the centuries. Only a very careful and critical scholar could have written such an essay. He adroitly avoids overstating his case. He shows the part played by legislation in making Bonaventurian scholarship obligatory to Capuchin lectors. He describes Peter Trigoso and Bartholomew Barbieri, as two Capuchin pioneers in this new direction, one giving a Thomistic slant to Bonaventure, the other giving him a Scotistic flavor. He only mentions by name another important Capuchin Bonaventurian, Theodor Foresti of Bergamo (p. 332). It would have been interesting had he given more information than that. He also only suggests some of the uses made of Bonaventurian writings by lay philosophers, such as the ontologists of the 19th century. But of course Fr. Berube's studies on Bonaventure are still on-going. We have the right to expect more.