Every May 20, the Church celebrates Saint Bernardino of Siena, Franciscan minor friar and priest, distinguished preacher and great disseminator of devotion to the Most Holy Name of Jesus: “The Name of Jesus is the light of preachers, since its splendor is the who makes his word announced and heard”, the saint wrote in one of his most famous sermons. Bernardino contributed in an exemplary way to the promotion and strengthening of the Franciscan Order, thanks to his intellectual capacity as well as his spiritual depth.
passion for preaching
Saint Bernardino Albizzeschi was born in Massa Marittima, Italy, in 1380; he was orphaned and raised by an aunt. As a child he liked to play to build altars and imitate the priests when they preached around the Word of God. Being a teenager he did not stop feeding his pious heart, so he exercised himself in guarding the senses and in maintaining a life of grace through prayer and assiduousness to the sacraments. These spiritual practices strengthened him in virtue, particularly in purity, a virtue that he understood as the care of one who loves the things of God and loves himself correctly.
When he was 20 years old, a great plague struck Tuscany, the region where he lived. He and his friends decided to volunteer as helpers at the city hospital to care for the sick. They did so for several years, until the epidemic disappeared. Later he would be accepted into the Order of Friars Minor of Saint Francis of Assisi, in which he was ordained a priest. As a priest he devoted himself to preaching, being recognized for being very careful in the elaboration of his sermons.
In the name of Jesus
As a propagator of devotion to the Most Holy Name of Jesus and the Eucharist, he used to carry a tablet, sometimes held on his chest, on which a consecrated host was shown, from which rays of light were emitted around it, and in the center of which he could see the IHS monogram, which the saint helped popularize as a symbol of the Eucharist.
Victim of a series of confusing comments and rumours, Saint Bernardino had to experience a difficult test: he was suspended as a preacher by Pope Martin V. Providentially, the intervention of Saint John Capistrano, who knew of his virtue and self-sacrifice, helped him to fix that situation.
Saint Bernardino of Siena was also a great reformer of the Franciscan Order and an outstanding organizer. With ingenuity and trust in Providence he went on to found more than 200 monasteries. In his maturity, he was summoned to be a bishop, but the Pope had to exempt him from such an assignment up to three times, since Bernardino begged him over and over again to leave him in the work that he loved the most: the humble service of him as a preacher.
Concern for the dramas of his time: ethics and economy
Influenced by many scholastic thinkers, Saint Bernardino dealt with issues of an obvious social and economic nature from a theological and moral point of view. These were times when the Church was struggling to respond to relatively new circumstances such as the growth of trade and the accumulation of wealth – evidence of this was the emerging economic abundance of northern Italy. Figures such as the businessman or merchant, the formation of workers’ unions and the appearance of financial entities constituted real challenges for the teaching of the Church. In a set of sermons entitled “On contracts and usury”, Saint Bernardino reflects and places moral limits on certain economic practices that spread rapidly, most of the time, in open contradiction with Christian values such as justice or the Gospel. .
On the other hand, Saint Bernardino of Siena is credited with going over a long list of moral issues, including sodomy. The spirit of his preaching was always the good and the salvation of souls, an effort that is consistent with the attention of the most practical or particular social problems.
Reformer of the sons of Saint Francis
Saint Bernardino of Siena was a promoter of the order to which he belonged, the Franciscan Observant Order (Friars Minor). In this field he was a tireless fighter. He was not its founder, as some have erroneously maintained, but a disseminator and reformer. The result of his efforts was the increase in the number of friars since he entered the order -barely 130- until his death -approximately 4000-.
In addition, Bernardino is responsible for the foundation or reform of at least three hundred convents or monasteries. The saint was one of the first Franciscan authorities to send missionaries to the East.
According to his biographers, presaging that the end of his life was drawing near, the friar witnessed an apparition of Saint Peter Celestine. In this Saint Peter confirmed that he would soon be with God. Our saint left for the Father’s House in the year 1444, and only six years later he was canonized by Pope Nicholas V, on May 25, 1450.
If you want to know more about Saint Bernardino of Siena, we recommend this article from the Catholic Encyclopedia: https://ec.aciprensa.com/wiki/San_Bernardino_de_Siena.