by Richard Senate
The Chamber of Commerce will tell you that the city of San Buenaventura is really the city of good fortune. That is a direct translation of the Spanish word Buenaventura. But in truth, that is not true. The city is named after a man, a very unique man who lived in 13th Century Italy.
His name was Giovanni di Fidanza, born in Bagnaren, Italy in 1221, the son of John Fidanza and Marra Fitel. At the age of four he became sick and lapsed into a coma. His father was a doctor but all he tried to save his son failed, medical knowledge was limited at the time. His mother insisted that the child should be taken to St. Francis who lived not far away. At the time the pious Francis was seen by all as a living saint and it was believed he could cure the boy. They took the infant to the saintly man to restore the child’s health.
The saintly Francis told them he couldn’t work miracles, and that only God could do such things. The mother begged him to at least give her son a blessing. He took the boy in his arms and pronounced a blessing. The instant he did, the child woke out of his coma with a cry. The surprised Francis let out the words; “O bona ventura!” (What good fortune). From that day on that became the boy’s nickname.
At the age of twenty-two he joined the Franciscan Order where he proved an adept scholar and was sent to Paris to study.There he became good friends with Thomas Aquinas and earned a degree as a Doctor of Divinity and took the position of teacher.
In 1256 he became the head of the Franciscan Order, over time rising to the rank of Cardinal of Albano. His writings were so popular that in 1274 he was commissioned by Pope Gregory X with the task of re-uniting the Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic churched that had split. In Rome he labored long and hard at his task, working himself to death, but failed in the end. He died on July 14th 1274, he was fifty -three. In his life he penned many papers and books. So many miracles happened at his tomb in the Vatican that he was named a saint. His symbol is the feather, a pen he used to write his many works.
Fr. Serra read his books and was impressed, naming the ninth Mission San Buneaventura in 1782 in his honor. St. Bonaventure is the patron saint of Ventura. A fitting man to represent all that is good in our community.