The Symbols of St. Bonaventure University
As many people have found out, the Class ring in college has been a symbol of who you are, and is also a source of pride. What few know is that there is a considerable amount of symbolism surrounding the ring and even how to wear it. Below is a description of the classic ring that is available at St. Bonaventure University. Much of the symbolism found on the class ring is also found on the Seal of St. Bonaventure University. To see specific pictures revert back to the St. Bonaventure Seal page.
Before graduation the student wears the ring on the left hand with the name of the school facing him. Upon graduation the ring is worn on the right hand with the name of the school facing away form the wearer. Thus the St. Bonaventure University graduate sporting his ring after graduation will have the name of his Alma Mater facing the world.
Looking upon the ring of someone who is not yet graduated from St. Bonaventure, we find that on the right side of the ring we see a picture of St. Bonaventure, the Seraphic Doctor. In his hands he holds a pen, symbolic of his great literary works. A tome resting on his left fore arm recalls his wisdom and scholarship. On his head he wears the cardinal's hat and tassels, telling us that he, who is not only special patron of our university and heavenly patron of all Franciscan educational institutions, was honored by the Pope by being elevated to the rank of Cardinal. This recalls the humility of this great saint of God, who was busy washing the community dishes when the envoys arrived to present him with the Red Hat.
On each side of the Seraphic Doctor, as St. Bonaventure is called, are sheaves of laurel leaves. These are symbolic of a worthy reward, and stand victorious after a long contest. These should have special significance for a collegian completing four years of arduous work, but the laurels also remind one that he is not to rest upon his laurels when college days are over. Like Commencement they mean, "It is truly only the beginning!"
On the other side of the ring we find first of all the face of a little angel, surrounded with six wings, symbolic of Seraphim, one of the nine choirs of angels. Their special office is to love God. The Seraphim are usually considered the highest order of angelic beings, immediately above the Cherubim. Seraph wings and seraphs are symbolic of the Franciscan Order, which is often referred to as the Seraphic Order. At times, Franciscan and Seraphic are synonymous.
The word seraphic is derived from the Hebrews word seraph meaning "to burn" or "consuming." Thus at times we use the words "burning" and "loving" interchangeably. We refer to Our Lord "Burning for the love for men."
This all goes back to the study made of Our Lord's Life by St. Francis or Assisi, founder of the Franciscan Order. He wanted to find out how best to follow the Master. After making a minute examination of Christ, he noticed that there was one theme which ran through His entire life--Love. When he realized that Love, or Charity, was the theme-song of the Master, he decided that he and his followers would make charity for God and man the theme of their lives. Love for God and Neighbor remind true Bonaventure men and women that they should carry away with them after graduation the spirit which they cultivated here: the St. Bonaventure Spirit, which is nothing short of the seraphic spirit, the spirit of St. Francis. Let them take into their various and varied spheres of action this spirit of whole-heartedly loving God, coupled with a seraphic love for their neighbor.
Oak leaves and acorns, shown on each side of the seraph, are symbolic of strength and victory. In military decorations, a cluster of oak leaves with acorns signifies a second or subsequent award of the basic decoration. Thus, the two clusters on the ring may very well stand for a promise or hope for "even better and greater things" for the wearer of the ring, who has won his basic decoration, the Bachelor's degree. The oak leaves stand for past accomplishments and future promise.
Prominently, although minutely, displayed above the coat of arms of St. Bonaventure College is the crest of he Franciscan Order. This of two crossed arms, surmounted by a cross. This escutcheon is full of meaning and romance. According to some, one of the crossed arms is that of Christ; the other, showing the sleeve of the habit, is that of St. Francis of Assisi. Both hands show the imprint of the nail, or Stigmata. The first that of Our Lord on the Cross, the other is that of His closest follower and most perfect copy, the Poverello of Assisi.
Some consider the two crossed arms as symbolic of St. Francis. The one arm covered with the sleeve of the Franciscan habit standing for Prayer or Ora (in Latin); the other arm with sleeve rolled up, signifying Labora or Work. Thus these two words may very well serve the St. Bona graduate as a motto during life: Work and Pray. Work as if all depended on you, and pray as if all depended on God. Do your level best, and God will do the rest
Just as the stigmatized hands remind us of Christ Crucified, and His Copy, St. Francis, these two crossed arms also portray the conformity of the Seraphic Francis with the Crucified. The Cross surmounting the crossed arms reminds us that the instrument of Christ's Crucifixion is our sign of salvation. The University contains the very core of Franciscan Spirituality: complete conformity with Christ, and acceptance of the Cross, with all it implies, concluding with the Franciscan Motto: "My God and My All."
Surrounding the stone is the legend in Latin "Sig Universitatis S. Bonaventurae, D.Seraph. Allegan, Neo-Ebor." This translated into the the vernacular is "College of St. Bonaventure, the Seraphic Doctor (Doctor Seraphicus), Allegany N.Y." May the words of St. Francis who gave St. Bonaventure his name in the cradle be applicable to each graduate of the university dedicated to him: O Buena Ventura-What wonderful things will come through this child.
Page created by David Patt; St. Bonaventure University, for History 419 (Computer and Archival Skills for Historians),