May 20

St. Bernardine of Siena

Saint Bernardine of Siena


St. Bernardine of Siena

When he lived:

St. Bernardine of Siena lived from 1380 to 1444. He was a prominent Italian Franciscan friar, preacher, and theologian.

Where he lived:

St. Bernardine was born in Massa Marittima, a picturesque town in Tuscany, Italy. However, he spent most of his life traveling and preaching throughout various cities in Italy.

Notable world events during the time of his life:

  1. The Renaissance Begins (c. 14th – 17th century): St. Bernardine lived during the early stages of the Renaissance, a period of remarkable cultural and artistic rebirth across Europe. The ideas of humanism, rediscovery of ancient Greek and Roman texts, and advancements in art, science, and architecture started to shape the world during his time.
  2. The Council of Constance (1414-1418): This significant Church Council aimed to resolve the Western Schism, during which multiple claimants vied for the papacy, causing a division within the Catholic Church. The Council successfully elected Pope Martin V, ending the schism and reuniting the Church.
  3. The Gutenberg Printing Press (c. 1440): Johannes Gutenberg invented the movable-type printing press, revolutionizing the spread of knowledge and information. This invention marked the beginning of the “print revolution” and played a pivotal role in disseminating religious texts, including St. Bernardine’s sermons.
  4. The Fall of Constantinople (1453): While St. Bernardine did not witness this event directly, it occurred shortly after his passing. In 1453, the Byzantine Empire fell to the Ottoman Turks, leading to the end of the Roman Empire and the dispersal of Greek scholars to the West, thus influencing the Renaissance further.
  5. Christopher Columbus’s Voyages (1492-1504): Columbus’s expeditions to the Americas significantly impacted the world’s perception of geography and paved the way for European exploration and colonization of the New World. These voyages heralded the Age of Exploration, which had far-reaching consequences for global history.

His patronage:

St. Bernardine of Siena is the patron saint of advertisers, public relations professionals, and communicators. This patronage is due to his exceptional skills as a preacher and his ability to captivate large crowds with his eloquence and charisma. He used innovative techniques, like painting symbols on placards for those who couldn’t read, to communicate his messages effectively. Modern advertisers and PR experts may find inspiration in St. Bernardine’s compelling communication strategies and his dedication to spreading his faith far and wide.

Early Tragedy

Young Bernardino, also called Bernadine, was born into the noble house of Albizzeschi in Massa Marittima, Siena, Italy, on September 8, 1380. His father, Albertollo degli, was the governor of Albizzeschi, and his mother was Raniera degeli Avveduti.

At six years old, Bernardine became an orphan. A devout aunt took him in and raised him as if he were hers.

He had his education at the University of Siena, where he took civil and canon law courses. He also learned grammar, rhetoric, and theology.

In 1397, he joined the Confraternity of Our Lady attached to Santa Maria Della Scala Church.

Weathering the Plague

In 1400, a plague broke out in the city of Siena, and people were dying in large numbers. A young man, 20 years old, stood outside the doors of La Scala Hospital not because he was sick but because he wanted to help. That was Bernardine.

Bernardine recruited his friends to help him care for the plague victims. Picture the coronavirus scourge. They comforted the victims, cleaned, and organized the hospital day and night for four months.

Bernardine took it on himself to pay the running costs of the hospital. Near the end of the plague, he falls sick from exhaustion. When he finally recovered, it was to take care of his invalid aunt. And for 14 months, he was by her side, caring for and tendering her until she died.

Here to Serve You, Lord

In 1403, he joined the order of the friar minors (Fransicians) at Colombia, near Siena. In 1404, he became a priest. The Franciscans are known to be preachers, but Bernardine has a short and coarse voice, so he couldn’t preach initially. Instead, he devoted his life to prayer and building his spirituality.

Bernardine moved to Milan, and surprisingly, he was preaching and his voice was very loud. For over 30 years, he moved around Italy on foot, preaching to the public from the heart, never preparing a speech.

He preached against witchcraft, sorcery, homosexuality, gambling, infanticide, and usury (lending money at exorbitant rates). These were discussions that many shied away from. His voice was powerful, and so was his message. He drew many crowds.

Bernadine talked about punishment for sins and reward for virtues. In the end, she reminded the people of the mercy of Jesus and the love of Mary. His exceptional devotion was to the Holy Name of Jesus.

Put on trial

As his influence grew throughout Italy, he attracted jealousy as well. His denouncers accused him of heresy and idolatry (promoting the holy name of Jesus). He was summoned by Pope Martin V and forbidden from preaching pending the outcome of his trial.

His trial took place before the Pope. It was discovered that the accusations against him were malicious. His books were given back to him. The Pope sent him to preach in Rome.

In 1437, he became the vicar general of the friars. There was tremendous growth in the number of people who joined the Franciscans in his lifetime, from 130 to 4000. He set up schools of theology and was instrumental to many ambassadors attending the Council of Florence.

But his position denied him the freedom to move about preaching as he wished. In 1443, he persuaded the Pope to accept his resignation. He went back to being an itinerant preacher.

Last Days

Just like everything Bernardine did, he threw the whole of himself into preaching once again. Even in the face of health challenges, he preached for 50 consecutive days in his hometown of Massa Maritima.

He sent out for Naples, preaching as he went, and in 1441, he died at Aquila. Bernardine was a voice that couldn’t be ignored, not in religion or socio-political concerns, until her very end.

Miracles followed him to the tomb where he was buried at the Basilica of San Bernardino, Aquila.

Pope Nicholas canonized him as a saint in 1450.

5 Interesting Facts About St. Bernardine of Siena

  1. Know the meaning of IHS as seen in churches, altars, and crosses?
    Bernardine was the first to carve it out, raising it up at the end.
    of his sermons. It stands for the first three letters of the
    name of Jesus in Greek.
  2. Bernardine rejected being a bishop not once but three times. He just
    wanted to be a preacher, and that he was.
    3. Devoted to the Holy Name of Jesus? Bernardine led the way to rever
    the Most Holy Name of Jesus.
    4. He was the first theologian after Pierre de Jean Olivi to write a
    book on Scholastic Economics His book, Contracts and Power, dwelt on
    the justification of private property, trade ethics, value, and
    price, and usury.
  3. Bernardine never spent more than a few weeks in any place he found.
    himself preaching. His journey was all on foot.

Prayer to St. Bernardine of Siena

God, you gave St. Bernardine, your priest, an exceeding love for the name of Jesus. Through his merits and prayers, grant that we may ever be inflamed with love for you. Amen.