Acta Sanctorum: St. Bernardine of Siena (May 20)
May 20, 2024
Fr. John Colacino C.PP.S.

May 20
 
St. Bernardine of Siena
 
Life
 
The Catholic Church honors St. Bernardine of Siena on May 20. A Franciscan friar and preacher, St. Bernardine is known as “the Apostle of Italy” for his efforts to revive the country's Catholic faith during the 15th century.

Bernardine Albizeschi was born to upper-class parents in the Italian republic of Siena during 1380. Misfortune soon entered the boy's life when he lost his mother at age three and his father four years later. His aunt Diana cared for him afterward, and taught him to seek consolation and security by trusting in God.

Even at a young age, Bernardine demonstrated a remarkable concern for the poor as an outgrowth of his love for God. Having become accustomed to fasting, he preferred at times to go without any food in order to help someone in greater need. From the ages of 11 to 17 he focused on his studies, developing the eloquence and dedication that would serve his future work as an evangelist.

Before becoming a preacher, however, Bernardine spent several years ministering to the sick and dying. He enrolled in a religious association that served at a hospital in the town of Scala, and applied himself to this work from 1397 to 1400.

During that time, a severe plague broke out in Siena, causing a crisis that would eventually lead to the young man taking charge of the entire hospital. Inside its walls, up to 20 people were dying each day from an illness that also killed many of the hospital workers. The staff was decimated and new victims were coming in constantly.

Bernardine persuaded 12 young men to help him continue the work of the hospital, which he took over for a period of four months. Although the plague did not infect him, the exhausting work left him weak and he contracted a different sickness that kept him in bed for four months.

After recovering, he spent over a year caring for his aunt Bartholomaea before her death. Then the 22-year-old Bernardine moved to a small house outside the city, where he began to discern God's will for his future through prayer and fasting.

He eventually chose to join the Franciscans of the Strict Observance in 1403, embracing an austere life focused on poverty and humility. During this time, while praying before a crucifix, Bernardine heard Christ say to him: “My son, behold me hanging upon a cross. If you love me, or desire to imitate me, be also fastened naked to your cross and follow me. Thus you will assuredly find me.”

After Bernardine was ordained a priest, his superiors commissioned him to preach as a missionary to the Italians who were falling away from their Catholic faith. The Dominican evangelist St. Vincent Ferrer, just before leaving Italy, preached a sermon in which he predicted that one of his listeners would continue his work among the Italians –  a prophecy Bernardine heard in person, and went on to fulfill.

Bernardine's personal devotion to God, which amazed even the strict Franciscans, made his preaching extremely effective. He moved his hearers to abandon their vices, turn back to God, and make peace with one another. He promoted devotion to the name of Jesus as a simple and effective means of recalling God's love at all times.

When other priests consulted him for advice, Bernardine gave them a simple rule: “In all your actions, seek in the first place the kingdom of God and his glory. Direct all you do purely to his honor. Persevere in brotherly charity, and practice first all that you desire to teach others.”

“By this means,” he said, “the Holy Spirit will be your master, and will give you such wisdom and such a tongue that no adversary will be able to stand against you.”

Bernardine's own life attested to this source of strength in the face of trials. He patiently suffered an accusation of heresy –  which Pope Martin V judged to be false – and refused to abandon his bold preaching when a nobleman threatened him with death.

But Bernardine was also widely admired throughout Italy, and he was offered the office of a bishop on three occasions. Each time, however, he turned down the position, choosing to fulfill the prediction of St. Vincent Ferrer through his missionary work. Bernardine preached throughout most of Italy several times over, and even managed to reconcile members of its warring political factions.

Later in his life, Bernardine served for five years as the Vicar General for his Franciscan order, and revived the practice of its strict rule of life. Then in 1444, forty years after he first entered religious life, Bernardine became sick while traveling. He continued to preach, but soon lost his strength and his voice.

St. Bernardine of Siena died on May 20, 1444. Only six years later, in 1450, Pope Nicholas V canonized him as a saint.

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/saint/st-bernardine-of-siena-462

Scripture Acts 4:8-12

Filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter said: ‘Rulers of the people, and elders! If you are questioning us today about an act of kindness to a cripple, and asking us how he was healed, then I am glad to tell you all, and would indeed be glad to tell the whole people of Israel, that it was by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, the one you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by this name and by no other that this man is able to stand up perfectly healthy, here in your presence, today. This is the stone rejected by you the builders, but which has proved to be the keystone. For of all the names in the world given to men, this is the only one by which we can be saved.’
 
Writings
 

Year B) The Name of Jesus is the refuge of the penitent sinner, a refuge full of meekness in which majesty effaces itself, tenderness becomes sweeter, Divine mercy appears in Its grandeur. The Name of God is awesome; in it is found the ardor of the flame which consumes, the wrath which chastises, the weight which crushes; but all these things have been tempered in the wellspring of mercy by Jesus Christ Who was smitten with love for us in the womb of the Virgin Mary. There, that ardor has lost its violence, that wrath has become forbearance, that overwhelming weight has become light . . . “O my God,” exclaims the Prophet, “say to my soul: I am thy salvation.” [Psalm 34: 3] May Thy Name be heard by my ears; Thy voice is full of sweetness and Thy face full of beauty.

The Name of Jesus is the banner of combatants . . . We have three kinds of enemies: the world, the flesh and the devil. If the devil rises up against you, do not be afraid, but lift the banner of salvation against him by invoking Jesus. “In My Name,” He says, “cast out devils.” [Mark 16: 17] The Prophet says, “Holy and awesome is His Name.” [Psalm 110: 9] Holy for the Angels, awesome for the devils and the godless. The flesh makes you feel its attacks? Well, in sorrow, may the Name of Jesus find place in your heart, may it rise from there to your lips, and by the light of that Name, every cloud shall scatter, serenity shall reappear. You have fallen into crime? Despair gets hold of you? Who, then, shall invoke that Name of life without breathing at once? Who, then, in the presence of that saving Name has not felt hardness of heart, dullness and laziness of soul disappear? Who, then, seeing his tears dry up, has not shed more abundant ones, wept sweeter ones, after invoking that Name? Nothing can halt the transport of wrath, nothing can contain the puffing up of pride, nothing can heal the wound of envy, nothing can resist the surge of sensuality, nothing can extinguish the flame of pleasure, nothing can temper the thirst of avarice, nothing can consume the rust of every dishonor like the Name of Jesus . . . The world declares itself against you; by a secret judgment of God, you are shipwrecked in the middle of the sea; you are exposed to its dangers; upon your path you find overflowing rivers, threatening enemies, ably hatched betrayals, thunder and lightning, ruination, accidents, unexpected fires? Invoke the Name of salvation, and may your heart and your mouth both call upon Jesus, hope in the help of the Most High. He Himself has said, “He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in distress.” [Psalm 90: 15] “I will deliver him; I will set him on high because he acknowledges My Name.” [Psalm 90: 14] Indeed, “the Name of the Lord is a strong tower; the just man runs to it and is safe.”
[Proverbs 18: 10]

The Name of Jesus is a remedy for our infirmities; it gave sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, nimbleness to the lame, speech to the mute, life to the dead . . . When you feel some suffering, you or yours, without neglecting natural remedies, have recourse to the Name of Jesus . . . I have learned from witnesses worthy of faith that in our days, many have laid their hands on the sick, according to the divine precept, and have invoked the Name of Jesus, and those illnesses were healed. As the Prophet says, “He saved them for His Name’s sake, to make known His power.” [Psalm 105: 7-8]

The Name of Jesus is the comfort of those who suffer. God does not let His servants fall in temptation, yet He exposes them to the pains of life. But then, far be it from us to despair! Let us not forget the sweet Name of Jesus, let us invoke it especially then. Saint Augustine says, “The Name of Jesus, written in the heart of the just, gives them an astonishing boldness to counter the blows of every woe.” Before her judge Saint Agatha exclaimed, “If you threaten me with ferocious beasts, they will become tame at the Name of Jesus; if you use fire against me, at that Name the Angels will surround me with life-giving dew.” By virtue of that Name, the Martyrs overcame every torment: “Through Your Name we trampled down Your adversaries; our help is in the Name of the Lord.” [Psalm 143: 6; 123:8]

Musical Selection

At the name of Jesus 
ev'ry knee shall bow,
ev'ry tongue confess him 
King of glory now;
'tis the Father's pleasure 
we should call him Lord,
who from the beginning 
was the mighty Word.

At his voice creation 
sprang at once to sight,
all the angel faces, 
all the hosts of light,
cherubim in heaven, 
stars upon their way,
all the heav'nly orders 
in their great array.

Humbled for a season 
to receive a name
from the lips of sinners 
unto whom he came,
faithfully he bore it 
spotless to the last,
brought it back victorious 
when from death he passed;

Bore it up triumphant 
with its human light,
thro' all ranks of creatures 
to the central height,
to the throne of Godhead, 
to the Father's breast,
filled it with the glory 
of that perfect rest.

In your hearts enthrone him; 
there let him subdue
all that is not holy, 
all that is not true;
crown him as your captain 
in temptation's hour;
let his will enfold you 
in its light and pow'r.

Christians, this Lord Jesus 
shall return again
in his Father's glory, 
with his angel train;
for all wreaths of empire 
meet upon his brow,
and our hearts confess him 
King of glory now.

Collect

O God,
you inspired Saint Bernardine, your priest,
with a singular love for the holy name of Jesus;
grant through his merits and prayers
that our hearts may always burn
with the spirit of your love.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God for ever and ever.  Amen.

 

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