Spotlight on the Saints
St. Bernardine of Sienna, Confessor
Feast Day - May 20
Saint Bernardine of Sienna was born in 1380 in Massa, in the republic of Sienna. He lost his mother at the age of three and his father before he was seven. The care of his education was passed on to a virtuous aunt, who filled him with sentiments of piety towards God and a tender devotion to Our Blessed Mother. He was modest, humble, and devout; he took great delight in prayer, visiting churches, serving at Mass, and hearing sermons which he would repeat again to his companions with an admirable memory and gracefulness of action.
At that tender age he had a great compassion for the poor. One day it happened that his aunt sent away a poor person from the door without food because there was only one loaf left for the family dinner. Bernardine was very troubled to see the beggar go away empty-handed and said to his aunt, “For God’s sake, let us give something to this poor man; otherwise I will neither dine nor sup this day. I
had rather the poor should have a dinner than myself.” This truly comforted his good aunt, who never stopped inciting him to all virtues, and according to his strength, to accustom him by degrees to fasting. Young as he was, he fasted every Saturday in honor of the Blessed Virgin, which pious custom he always continued.
In his early twenties, he took the habit of the Order of St. Francis of the Strict Observance at a solitary convent a few miles from Sienna; and after the year of his novitiate made his profession on September 8, 1404.
His especial devotion was to the Holy Name of Jesus, which he insisted everyone say devoutly, reverently, and with the bending of one’s head. He openly rebuked anyone who dared use the Holy Name of Jesus in profanity. Those who heard him preach felt their souls melt in sentiments of remorse, divine love, humility, and contempt of the world and returned home new men, striking their breasts and bathed in tears.
When St. Bernardine was dying, speechless, he made a sign to be taken off his bed and laid upon the floor; where, lifting up his eyes to Heaven, he surrendered his pure soul into the hands of his Creator on May 20, 1444, after a life of 63 years. His tomb was rendered illustrious by many miracles, and he was canonized six years later by Pope Nicholas V, in 1450. His body is kept in a crystal shrine, enclosed in one of silver, in the church of his Order at Aquila.