Tuesday, January 16, 2007

"All Italy was His Diocese"



While reading about the devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus I realized that you could hardly mention it without remembering the apostle of the Holy Name, St. Bernadine of Siena.

Did you know that?:

Although Bernadine was known for his playful talk and spirits, he was an implacable foe of coarse jests or sordid occupations. As a boy he once struck with his fists a high-ranking official who had suggested dishonorable recreations; later, he returned with his friends to cast mud and stones at the man until he desisted from his wicked ways.

-At the age of 20 he sought entry into the Franciscans of the Strict Observance, otherwise known as the Friars Minor or "little brothers." At 24 he was ordained a priest.

-For the next twelve years we know little about his life, save that he spent his time in quiet prayer and meditation, as though in preparation for a great work. Around the age of 36, a sign came to him that he should commence a labor of preaching throughout the feud-riven and vice-laden land of Italy. He preached to audiences as large as 30,000. Bernardine passionately exhorted his listeners to thrust aside their rivalries and worldly corruptions in order to obey the demands of the Gospel of Christ, the one true message of peace and the one unfailing guarantee of happiness.

- As a result of his preaching families who had stolen one another's property freely returned what had been taken, exiles were called back from their dwellings, and political shields and signs were replaced by monograms of the Holy Name of Jesus.

-During his travels on foot through the various provinces of Italy, his preaching coalesced more and more around the Name of Jesus, the power, beauty, and holiness of which he eloquently expounded before rapt crowds. At the end of his sermons he would hold aloft a wooden board inscribed with the letters "IHS" surrounded by rays of light and plead with the people to embrace as their way of life this heavenly name and all it signified. (The monogram "IHS," which can still be seen in many Catholic churches and cathedrals, is an abbreviated form of the medieval spelling of the name of Our Lord, "IHESUS."1)

- Accused of heresy and denounced before Pope Martin V, Bernardine was ultimately vindicated and his opponents put to shame. He turned down three offers of bishoprics from the same pope, "saying playfully that all Italy was already his diocese".

-Vocations: When he turned fifty, Bernardine took up the office of Vicar General of the Friars Minor, a nobly conceived but struggling Franciscan reform movement. There is a fine lesson to be learned from the results of Bernardine's efforts: holiness and fervor produce vocations, not lax rules and easier standards. His branch of the Franciscans grew from about 200 when he first entered religious life to over 4000 by the time he died. As Vicar General, he founded or reformed 300 convents, sent off missionaries to the Orient, and established contacts in good will with the schismatic Greek Christians, whose ambassadors he later addressed in the Greek tongue at the Council of Florence.5

- We find the monogram as early as the eighth century, written on a Roman gold coin: "dn ihs chs rex regnantium" (Lord Jesus Christ, King of Kings). Later, the Jesuits construed "ihs" as an epigram meaning "Iesus Hominem Salvator" (Jesus the savior of men). Because it became customary to draw three nails in the shape of a v underneath the h, it was also said that "ihsv" stands for "In Hoc Signo Vinces" (in this sign you shall conquer), the words Emperor Constantine saw emblazoned in the heavens under the sign of the cross in the year 312.

- Bernardine was also responsible for encouraging his listeners to add the Name of Jesus to the Hail Mary: "and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus." From Italy where it first took root, the custom quickly spread throughout the Universal Church.

Written by:

Peter A. Kwasniewski is studying for a Doctorate in Philosophy at the Catholic University of America, concentrating on medieval philosophy.

1 comment:

Don Kenner said...

"Bernardine was also responsible for encouraging his listeners to add the Name of Jesus to the Hail Mary: "and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus." From Italy where it first took root, the custom quickly spread throughout the Universal Church."

I had no idea Bernadine did this. What a wonderful (and essential) addition to the Rosary.