The Catholic University of America

Louis Joseph Rouleau Defense

Final Examination of Louis Joseph Rouleau

For the degree of Doctor of Philosophy

Tuesday, April 3, 2012 2:30 p.m., Caldwell Room 125



Rev. Regis J. Armstrong, O.F.M. Cap., Ph.D.


Desire, Eros, and Fulfillment: St. Bonaventure’s Anthropology and Mysticism of Desire

This dissertation examines the place of desire in Bonaventure’s anthropology and mysticism as a corrective to studies that restrict its scope to the desire for contemplation or as an affection based solely on the absence of the desired object. It contends that Bonaventure incorporates desire as lack with desire as an expression of plenitude. On the basis of his doctrine of analogy and of his theology of the image of God in the soul, Bonaventure embraces desire as a sign of the human being’s orientation toward the good and of its vocation to happiness. He seeks to harness desire as a means of drawing the soul, with the assistance of grace and charity, into union with God, which can be experienced partially in this life through affective and ecstatic contemplation.

Setting a broad context for interpreting Bonaventure’s theology of desire, the first part examines the prevalence of desire in contemporary philosophy and theology. While post-modern philosophy makes use of desire to fracture the unity of the modern subject, contemporary theology retrieves the category of desire in order to overcome an extrinsic conception of nature and grace. This first part also surveys the conceptualization of desire in Bonaventure’s sources and examines how scholars have articulated Bonaventure’s theology of desire.

The second part identifies and classifies the vocabulary of desire scattered throughout Bonaventure’s writings and considers the various subjects and objects to which he ascribes desire. It explores the ontological, anthropological, and mystical dimensions of desire.

The third part addresses questions relating to the role of desire in human experience and argues that, on the basis of Bonaventure’s use of convenientia, the fullness of desire and its ultimate foundation can be found in the supremely self-diffusive love of the Trinitarian persons. A close reading of The Soliloquium shows how this little-known treatise charts a pilgrimage of desire by which the soul can be transformed into the image of the One it loves and by which it begins to experience a foretaste of the life of heaven. The final chapter considers the figure of Saint Francis, who is the true vir desideriorum.