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Saint Bernardine of Siena

Born in 1380, Saint Bernardine grew up in Tuscany. His father, Albertollo degli Albizzeschi was the governor at the time and the family had longstanding links to nobility in their past. Tragedy struck early in his life and Saint Bernardine was left in the world as an orphan at only the age of 6. His aunt, a woman known for her piety and devotion, took him in and raised him as best she could. Showing an aptitude for education, Saint Bernardine took a course on civil and canon law before joining the Cofraternity of Our Lady that was attached to the hospital of Santa Maria della Scala church.

Three years after joining the Cofraternity, plague broke out in Siena. Together with ten other companions, Saint Bernardine ministered to those suffering from the plague and for nearly fourth months took charge of the entire hospital to care for them. In time the plague passed but Saint Bernardine was left with a fever that did to break for several months and was physically exhausted. In 1403 he joined the Franciscan Order and was ordained a priest the next year. The Franciscans commissioned him as a preacher in 1405 and a year later Saint Vincent Ferrer left Saint Bernardine the task of evangelizing to the peoples of Italy as he departed for France and Spain.

Saint Bernardine became extremely famous for his preaching in a remarkably short amount of time. In a break with tradition, Saint Bernardine chose his preaching themes not from the daily liturgy but rather from the ordinary lives of those around him - selecting Biblical themes that the listeners could immediately relate to and understand. Never in one place for more than a few days, Saint Bernardine travelled by foot and attracted crowds so large that pulpits would have to be erected for him in the towns. His sermons often lasted several hours and he frequently spoke out about excessive luxury, gambling, sodomy and immodest apparel. While he always found receptive crowds he also frequently round detractors and groups angry for preaching against these excesses.

Apart from his preaching, Saint Bernardine was also very well known for his devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus. His devotion led him through prayer to devise a symbol - the letters IHS in Gothic letters onto of a blazing sun (IHS being the first three letters of Christ's name in Greek). The symbol and devotion very quickly spread throughout Italy. In 1438 he was named Vicar-general of the Observant branch of the Franciscans. He convinced the Pope to allow his resignation in 1442 so that he could return to his passion for preaching and missionary's work.

In 1444, in the town of L'Aquila, Saint Bernardine died. According to one famous tradition, his body continued to bleed until two warring factions in the town made peace with one another. Pope Nicholas V canonized him very quickly after his death as word of many miracles spread almost immediately. The Franciscans promoted an iconographical program of diffusion of images of Saint Bernardine and as such was one of the earliest saints whose appearance was given an easily recognizable iconography.

Today Saint Bernardine is the patron saint of advertising, communications, compulsive gambling , and public relations. His feast day is celebrated each year on May 20th.

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