St. Bernardine of Siena: “Apostle of Italy”
May 20 is the feast of St. Bernardine of Siena, a Franciscan priest and missionary, who popularized the devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus. He is known as “the Apostle of Italy” for his efforts to revive the country’s Catholic faith during the 15th century.
Born in 1380 in Tuscany, Bernardine’s parents died when he was seven years old. He was raised by a pious aunt as her own child.
As a youth, he loved the Blessed Virgin Mary and spoke to her as a child speaks to his mother. She kept him chaste and virtuous. He had a special devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and later wrote that the Immaculate Heart of Mary was “a fiery furnace of Holy Love.”
While still a student at the University of Siena, he took charge of the hospital there when an epidemic killed most of the staff. Afterwards, he cared for a bedridden aunt until her death. He then prayed and fasted to discern God’s will for his vocation in life.
At the age of 22, Bernardine entered the Franciscan Order and was ordained two years later. He spent nearly a dozen years in prayer and solitude before he was sent out to preach. He was a zealous preacher full of energy and joy, who spent years travelling on foot throughout Italy speaking to enormous audiences, converting countless numbers of pagans.He preached against superstition, gambling, and usury. He promoted peace among the warring Italian cities, and worked diligently for the reform of the Franciscan order and for church unity. He encouraged devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus and is known for his use of the monogram IHS.
Bernardine died on May 20, 1444, at the age of sixty-four in Aquila, Italy. In 1450, Pope Nicholas V declared Bernardine a saint. He is the patron of advertising and communications, and chest, respiratory, and lung problems. He is also patron against hoarseness and against compulsive gambling.
“Jesus, Name full of glory, grace, love and strength! You are the refuge of those who repent, our banner of warfare in this life, the medicine of souls, the comfort of those who morn, the delight of those who believe, the light of those who preach the true faith, the wages of those who toil, the healing of the sick. To You our devotion aspires; by You our prayers are received; we delight in contemplating You. O Name of Jesus, You are the glory of all the saints for eternity. Amen.”
– St. Bernardine of Siena
Saint Bernardine of Siena, words were very important to you. You spent most of your life speaking the golden words of Jesus’ mercy and his Holy Name. And you abhorred words that were shameful. Pray for us that we may always choose to speak Jesus’ name with reverence and choose words of love over words of shame. Amen.