Saint Bonaventure, “the Seraphic Doctor”, believed that before the Second Coming of Christ there would come an age of universal peace and fullness of understanding, in which everyone on earth would be a ‘contemplative’ and live in mystical union with God.
I am very interested in hearing peoples’ thoughts on this. He is a Doctor of the Church and his positive understanding of the future is very interesting to me.
Here is a description, based upon a doctrinal thesis written by the previous Pope Benedict XVI when he was a postgraduate student, of how St. Bonaventure approached this issue:
The Thought of Pope Benedict XVI New Edition: An Introduction
"…In large measure, Bonaventure’s theology of history took the form of an orthodox corrective to the speculations of the brilliant but wayward Calabrian abbot Joachim of Fiore. The Franciscan Order, of which Bonaventure was minister-general, was strained to breaking-point by the claims of Joachim’s Franciscan sympathisers.
They maintained that the Church, founded hitherto on the sacramental and ministerial pattern laid down by God the Son, made man in Jesus, was shortly to enter a new charismatic condition of unmediated access to grace - the reign of God the Spirit whose herald, they insisted, was Francis of Assisi himself. According to Ratzinger (now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI), the Collationes in Hexaemeron were Bonvaventure’s response to the Joachimite question. And this response consisted, not in a total rejection of Joachim’s teaching, but in a corrective interpretation [that received the sanction of Catholic orthodoxy].
Whereas the Joachimites were interpreting Joachim against tradition, Bonaventure would interpret him within, indeed back to, tradition…Bonaventure’s predecessor John of Parma had supported both the prophecies of Joachim and the Joachimite conception of the Franciscan Order…His position had, however, become untenable with the papal condemnition in 1255 of the Evangelium aeternum (the Eternal Gospel), the attempt to give Franciscan Spiritualism theological formulation.
What Bonaventure produced was perhaps the most substantial high medieval synthesis…
It is this latter, seven-fold schema which is the most interesting in Bonaventure’s eyes, as it had been to Augustine in the De Civitate Dei. What emerges from Ratzinger’s necessarily convoluted discussion, is that Saint Bonaventure, just like Joachim, hopes for a new age of salvation within history. Between Jesus Christ and the final consummation of history he makes space for an ‘inner-historical transformation of the Church’. Before this immediately pre-eschatological ‘seventh age’, there lies a small section of our present sixth age which is yet to be realized. Here is where Bonaventure’s attention is focussed, in a:
mysterious border-line area separating the perilous time of the present from that age of Sabbath rest which is yet to come within the framework of this world. (Ratzinger)
Within the single covenant of the New Testament, the present sixth age is being brought to its climax. In this, the crucial role is that played by St. Francis…
Bonaventure presents Francis as the key-figure in ushering in for the Church a new era which can only be compared to the beatitude of heaven itself…Within the time of the Church, the emergence of St. Francis, the ‘Angel of the Seals,’ foretold in the Book of the Apocalypse, and the rise of the prophetic movement he started, namely, Franciscanism.
Francis is for Bonaventure not just another saint, but the [first] sign of a new age. Francis had called himself, according to the Legenda Major, ‘the herald of a great King’. This enabled Bonaventure to see him, not just as a new John the Baptist - the herald of Christ, but also as a new Elijah…