St. Bernardino Realino, Model of Charity and Kindness
On July 2, we comemorate St. Bernardino Realino, “the Apostle of Leece”, who was known for his great charity and kindness to the people of that city.
Bernardino was born in 1530 in Capri, Italy, a city located in the northern part of Italy, to noble parents. He studied law and medicine in Bologna and initially became an attorney, followed by a political career, in which he served as judge, tax collector, Superintendent of the fiefs of the marquis of Naples, and mayor of three different cities in Italy.
While in Naples, Bernardino, now 34 years old, he met some priests of the Society of Jesus and made an eight-day retreat with them. During this retreat, he felt a strong call to the religious life and asked the Jesuits for admittance into their Society. He was accepted and ordained a priest in 1567. For ten years he served in Naples, preaching, teaching catechism, visiting the sick, the poor, and those in prison. He also served as the novice master there. Then he was transferred to Lecce, a small city in southern Italy, where he was sent to found a college. He remained in Leece for the last forty-two years of his life.
Bernardino was well-known and loved for his work in Leece. He was a model confessor, a powerful preacher, a diligent catechist to the youth, as well as a Rector of the Jesuit college and Superior of the Community there. His charity to the poor and the sick knew no bounds and his kindness brought about the end of vendettas and public scandals. One of the miracles attributed to him involved his small pitcher of wine, which was never empty until everyone present had had enough.
He was loved so much and venerated that, as he lay on his death bed in 1616, the city’s leaders requested that he take the city under his protection. Unable to speak, St. Bernardino bowed his head. He died with the names of Jesus and Mary on his lips.
St. Bernardino was canonized in 1947 by Pope Pius XII. He is the patron saint of Leece, Italy.
What helped to make St. Bernardino even more famous are the events that followed his death. Six years prior to his death, he fell and sustained two wounds that refused to heal. While he was in his last illness, those closest to him, who had witnessed his holiness, collected the blood discharged from these wounds in several small vials.
This blood acted strangely. In some of the vials, it retained its liquid consistency for over a century. In others it foamed or frothed, particularly on the anniversary of the saint’s death. Several witnesses testified to these phenomena during the investigation before his beatification. When his tomb was opened in 1711, some of his fleshy tissue remained incorrupt, floating in a dark red liquid. This too, proved to be human blood, and it gave off a sweet perfume. In 1713 it was also found to be frothing or bubbling, as it was again in 1804 and 1852. In 1985, however, none of the blood preserved showed any of these tendencies.