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PHILOTHEUS BOEHNER: IN MEMORIAM Fr. Philotheus H. Boehner, cofounder and first director of the Franciscan Institute, was born in Lichtenau (Westphalia) Germany, February 17, 1901, the youngest ofseven children ofFranz and Maria (née Weimers) Boehner. Christened Heinrich, he received the religious name Philotheus when invested in the Order of Friars Minor as a member of the Saxonia Province of the Holy Cross on March 18, 1920. He was ordained a priest on April 2, 1927, at a time when he was so ill with tuberculosis that it was questionable that he would live for long. But during those long months of bed rest that brought about his recovery, he began his career as a medieval philosopher by translating some ofEtienne Gilson's works on St. Bonaventure and St. Augustine . Hellerau published the first of these (Der heilige Bonaventura) in 1929 and the second the following year (Der heilige Augustin, Eine Einführung in seine Lehre). Because his province traditionally combined studies in philosophy with those in the natural sciences, from 1929-33 Boehner, as a future provincial lector, was sent for graduate studies in both fields to the Universities of Munich and Münster. At the latter university, his dissertation , 'Über die thermonastischen Blutenbewegungen bei der Tulpe' published in Zeitschrift der Botanik, 26 (1933), earned him his doctorate in botany and he returned to serve his province as lector ofphilosophy from 1933-39. During this period of tenure he also visited the Franciscan centers of study at Quaracchi and Rome, as well as spending some time in Paris with his friend Gilson, whose third book he translated and published in 1936 under the title, Die Mystik des heiligen Bernhard von Clairvaux. It was on this occasion that Gilson gave Boehner his personal lecture notes on medieval philosophy, suggesting that he expand them into what was eventually published under their joint VIIIALLAN B. WOLTER names as Die Geschichte der Christlichen Philosophie (Paderborn, 1937). Boehner continued to revise this work until its third and final edition in 1954 under the title Christliche Philosophie von ihren Anfängen bis Nikolaus von Cues. Gilson was also responsible for Boehner leaving Germany early in 1939 to edit the Summa logicae of William of Ockham as well as to lecture on paleography at the Pontifical Institute in Toronto. Before Fall classes could begin, however, Germany invaded Poland and on September 3, England declared war on Germany. On a visit to St. Bonaventure College at the time, Boehner was unable to return to Canada. Having been one of the first in his province to discern and warn his confreres against the diabolical character of Hitler and the harm he was doing to the religious and academic life ofGermany, Boehner had no wish to return to his native land as long as it remained under the domination of the Nazis. It was at this critical moment in his career that he was invited to continue his biological and philosophical work as a member of the graduate faculty of St. Bonaventure College by its president, Fr. Thomas Plassmann, O.F.M. When the United States entered the war two years later, it was Plassmann's diplomacy that smoothed the way for Philotheus to continue his academic work throughout the war. During those troubled times, Boehner also served as an auxiliary chaplain to the Germans interned as prisoners of war and when peace came in 1945, he felt he could best serve his native province, still under allied occupation, as a naturalized citizen of the United States. Though Boehner's continued interest in botany is reflected in a number of taxonomical articles on the flora of Cattaraugus County, N.Y., in the Science Studies, published by the biology department of St. Bonaventure College, his scholarly interests during the forties centered mainly on the philosophy of the Franciscan 'schoolmen' from Alexander of Hales to William of Ockham. It was his series of graduate lectures on these prominent Franciscan thinkers, begun in the summer of 1940, as well as his initial publications, that formed the nucleus from which the Franciscan Institute as a center of international Franciscan scholarship gradually evolved. In 1941, at his suggestion, Fr. Thomas Plassmann, President of the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1945-9718
Print ISSN
0080-5459
Pages
pp. VI-X
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
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