St. Patrick Catholic Church
Saint of the Day
 

Saint Bernanrdino of Siena
(Optional Memorial)
May 20



Blessed Albert of Bologna, OSB Vall. Abbot (AC)
Born in Bologna, Italy; died there in 1245. Albert was a member of the Parisi family, who became a monk and later an abbot of the Vallombrosan abbey near Bologna, which after his death was renamed S. Alberto (Benedictines).


Anastasius of Brescia B (RM)
Died 610. Bishop Anastasius of Brescia, Lombardy, greatly contributed to the conversion of the Lombards from Arianism. Saint Charles Borromeo solemnly translated his relics in 1581 (Benedictines).


Aquila of Nīmes M (RM)
Died 311. An Egyptian, torn to pieces with iron combs under Maximinus Daza. The prefect Arianus, who had ordered this torture, subsequently became a Christian and a martyr in the same persecution (Benedictines).


Austregisilus of Bourges B (RM)
(also known as Outril(le), Aoustrille)

Born at Bourges; died 624. Saint Austregisilus was educated as a courtier, but preferred the life of a monk and entered the abbey of Saint-Nizier at Lyons, where he became abbot. In 612, he was elected bishop of Bourges (Benedictines). In art, Saint Austregisilus is portrayed as a knight on horseback, sometimes with a religious habit over his armor. A man falls from a horse in front of him (Roeder).


Basilla (Basilissa) of Rome VM (RM)
Died 304. Basilla, a Roman maiden, was betrothed to a pagan patrician. When she became a Christian, she refused to marry him. Forced to choose between her bridegroom and death, she at once chose the latter and was accordingly martyred for Christ (Benedictines).


Baudelius of Nīmes M (RM)
2nd or 3rd century. Born in Orléans, Baudelius married and worked zealously to spread Christianity. He was martyred at Nīmes. His cultus spread throughout France and northern Spain: there are some 400 churches dedicated to him (Benedictines).


Bernardino of Siena, OFM Priest (RM)
Born in Massa Marittima (near Siena), Tuscany, Italy, on September 8, 1380; died in Aquila, Italy, May 20, 1444; canonized in 1450 by Pope Nicholas V.

"Jesus, crucified for me, with the nails of Your love fasten my whole self to You."--Berardino of Siena.

Son of the governor of Massa Marittima (near Siena), Bernardino degli Albizzeschi was placed in the care of an aunt when he was seven after the death of his parents in 1386. She provided him with his religious education. At 17, he joined a confraternity of Our Lady.

When the plague came to Siena in 1400, Bernardino offered to take charge of the hospital, recalling the gentleness and virtue his pious aunt had taught him. He also gathered round him twelve young friends who were willing to risk their lives to share this duty. For the four months of the pestilence, they worked tirelessly. Bernardino also organized an effective service of welfare and relief. Although several of his companions died, he did not contract the disease (one source said he did and came close to death).

He then cared for his blind, bedridden 90-year-old aunt, Bartholomea. After her death, he set himself to prayer and fasting to learn God's will for his future. While praying before his crucifix, he was impressed and reproached, like Saint Francis, by the suffering of Our Lord, who seemed to step down from the Cross and appear before him in His nakedness and sorrow. He could not resist the pleading in his Savior's eyes and surrendered all he had.

He took the habit on September 8, 1402, entered the Franciscan monastery of strict observance at Colombaio outside Siena in 1403. He was ordained on September 8, 1404--the Feast of the Birth of Our Lady and his birthday as well. Later he moved to Fiesole near Florence.

Over the next 12 years he preached only occasionally, preferring to live as a solitary. He went to Milan and on September 8, 1417, he preached his first sermon as a missioner. Despite being a stranger to the city, his eloquence and fiery sermons soon attracted huge congregations. The people made him promise to return the following year before they allowed him to leave to preach in Lombardy. He covered nearly all of Italy, usually on foot, preaching for two and three hours at a time, and often giving several speeches in a day-- generally at a pulpit in the open air because the crowds were so huge.

He attacked usury relentlessly, and denounced the party strife of the Italian cities as a fundamental evil of the age and place. On the other hand, he did not rise above such contemporary characteristics as hostility toward Jews and belief in widespread witchcraft.

He would castigate vice and then hold up a placard with the sign of the name of Jesus, "IHS," written on it, urging the congregation to turn to the one symbolized by those letters. People became so enthused that they even had IHS painted on houses. Throughout Italy people spoke of the wonderful benefits of his preaching. Once a man whose livelihood came from making playing cards complained that Bernardino had so successfully fought against gambling that the trade was ruined. Bernardino gave him a new, even more profitable trade, printing cards with the sign IHS.

Some of his preaching was criticized by the University of Bologna, but this controversy, which troubled him for eight years, ended in his favor. His detractors accused him of encouraging superstitious practices. They said that he carried on his person a piece of paper on which the Name of Jesus was written, that when he pleaded with sinners he showed it to them and it gave out rays of light, and denounced him to Pope Martin V. He was cleared of the charges after an examination of his doctrine and conduct. It may well be that the light symbolized that which flowed from his devoted spirit and the grace and passion of his eager witness.

Pope Martin V offered him the bishopric in Siena in 1427, but he declined, as he later declined the bishoprics of Ferrara and Urbino. In 1430, the "Apostle of the Holy Name" became vicar general of the Friars of the Strict Observance. He reformed the rule to involve the friars more as preachers and teachers and many convents passed easily from the Conventual to the Observant rule. In fact, the number of friars under the rule grew from 300 to over 4,000. The original Observants had shunned scholarship (as riches), but Bernardino insisted upon instruction in theology and canon law as part of the regular curriculum.

From 1430, he wrote theological works in both Latin and Italian. These covered the principal doctrinal and moral elements of Christianity, as well as treatises on the Blessed Mother. He established theological schools at Perugia and Monteripido.

In 1442, he obtained permission from the pope to resign his office, although Bernardino assisted at the Council of Florence. His health was failing, but Bernardino was insistent upon a final missionary journey. He began it at Massa Marittima in 1444 where he preached on fifty consecutive days. Although dying, he continued his apostolic travels, setting out for Naples and preaching as he went. He got as far as Aquila in the Abruzzi, where he died.

His tomb at Aquila was said to be the site of miracles. He was the most prominent missioner of the 15th century, and he was canonized within six years of his death.

It has been said that the 'People's Preacher' inaugurated in Italy 'one of those rare periods in history when the rule of Jesus made visible progress in society.' He was called the "People's Preacher" because his sermons were filled with lively and realistic depictions of everything from a bachelor's household to women's fashions (Attwater, Benedictines, Bentley, Delaney, Farmer, Gill, Origo, White).

Bernardino is represented in art as an old, toothless Franciscan holding up a sign bearing the legend "IHS," from which rays shine forth. Medieval and Renaissance painters depicted him as small and emaciated, with deep burning eyes. He may also be seen (1) preaching before the Palazzo Communale in Siena with IHS held before him; (2) with a banner bearing IHS and a star over his head; (3) with three mounds surmounted by a banner with a cross (possibly these mounds may really represent the three miters he refused-- Siena, Urbino, and Ferrara); with a trumpet as a sign of his power as a preacher, or (5) in a painting by El Greco, bearded and habited, or four mitres at his feet, IHS on his staff (Farmer, Gill, Roeder, White).

Bernardino was made the patron saint of advertisers and advertising in 1956 by Pope Pius XII because of his ability to illuminate the Catholic faith to audiences by the use of simple language and telling symbols. He is invoked against hoarseness, which he suffered in his early days of preaching, and is believed to have been cured by a prayer to the Blessed Virgin (White). He is also the patron of wool-weavers and invoked against diseases of the chest and lungs (Roeder).


Blessed Columba of Rieti, OP Tert. V (AC)
Born in Rieti, Umbria, Italy, in 1467; died in Perugia, Italy, in 1501; beatified in 1697 (or 1627).

Columba of Rieti is one of many pious mystics of the third order of Saint Dominic. According to legend, angels sang around the house when Columba was born. She was originally to be called Angelica, but a white dove appeared over the baptismal font, and it was decided to change the name to Columba (another source says that her name was Angelella Guardagnoli). Her parents were too charitable to save any money, and the little girl learned to be hungry gracefully with them. Early in life, she learned to spin and sew, and she and her mother took upon themselves the task of doing the mending for the Dominican fathers in her Rieti.

Columba soon picked up the art of reading from the sisters at Rieti, and learned the Little Office from hearing it chanted. She was especially devoted to Our Lady, and, as soon as she had read a life of Saint Catherine of Siena, she began to model her life on that of the great Dominican tertiary. Columba's parents seem to have had a very casual attitude towards the goods of this world, and, apparently, she and they worked only at odd times, when it was absolutely necessary. They devoted the rest of their time to prayer and good works among the poor.

At 12, Columba was self-supporting and, furthermore, she had learned that charming truth: "It is better to need less than to have more." Earnestly praying to know her vocation, she was favored with a vision in which she saw Our Lord on a golden throne, attended by SS Dominic, Jerome, and Peter Martyr of Verona. Columba interpreted the vision to mean that she was to dedicate herself to God, and she pronounced a private vow of virginity and made plans to live a solitary life.

Unfortunately, she did not think to mention this to her parents, who were busy arranging a marriage for her. The night before the engagement was to be publicly announced, they suddenly told her that the young man they had arranged for her to marry was waiting in the parlor to see her. Forewarned by a vision, Columba had made up her mind what to do. She quickly cut off her hair and sent it in to him, which seems to be the accepted Dominican way of declining a suitor. He took the hint and departed, to the fury of Columba's brothers, who perhaps had felt that the family finances were about to be put on a solid basis.

Columba, following Saint Catherine's example, settled down to live the life of a recluse in her father's house. She worked skillfully at whatever her mother suggested, which softened the good lady's annoyance at her daughter's peculiar choice of life. An uncle and one of her brothers persecuted her continually, and one time her brother tried to kill her.

All in all, one would hardly say that these were comfortable surroundings for a mystic. In the midst of all this, Columba set sturdily about her program of spirituality: she kept five Lents a year, fasted on bread and water, and went to Mass and to Communion as often as she was allowed in those days of infrequent Communion.

Columba had a special devotion to the Holy Infancy, and she longed to visit the Holy Land and see the places sanctified by the Incarnate Christ. Never able to make the trip in actuality, she made it spiritually, and once, in an ecstasy that lasted five days, she was conducted to all the holy places in Palestine.

On one occasion, her confessor, who was something of an artist, had promised to make her a set of crib figures to use at Christmas time. He forgot to do so, and she was desolate until the Christ- Child himself appeared to her. Then she had no need of wooden figures. Once, when she was meditating on the Passion, she was so affected by what she saw that she begged our Lord never to let her see such suffering again, for fear she would die of its intensity.

At age 19, Columba was received into the third order of Saint Dominic. She had been favored with a vision telling her that she should join this group, and, as soon as she was clothed with the habit, she led a pilgrimage to the Dominican shrine of Our Lady of the Oak in Viterbo.

Her fame had already begun to spread; as they went along the road, people crowded to get close to her and hailed her as a saint. Columba was embarrassed by such attention, but she proceeded to Viterbo. Here she prayed that a devil might be cast out of a young woman who had been possessed for 18 years. When the woman was healed, the word spread all over the region that Columba was a real saint.

The citizens of Narni determined to trap her and keep her as she passed through that city on her return home. Warned of their intention, Columba and her little party crept out by night and fled from those overly enthusiastic citizens, who would one day wage a bloody battle to gain custody of another saintly Dominican--Lucy of Narni.

It is unknown why Columba moved to Foligno; perhaps the fame of her miracles--including the raising of a dead child to life--was beginning to press down upon her. In 1488, she moved to the convent of the Poor Clares.

The bishop soon heard about her, and, unexpectedly, Columba found herself in the role of foundress for a community of Dominican tertiaries that the bishop wished to establish in Perugia. The bishop sent word for her to go to Perugia, and at the same time the master general told her to return to Rieti.

The good people of Foligno blocked all the roads, and said quite plainly that Columba was going nowhere. When the master general's envoy came to get her, she was in ecstasy, and he had to shake her awake to give her the message. She went along very obediently. Eventually, however, the master general changed his mind, and she was sent to Perugia.

Columba took her solemn vows in the convent of Perugia on Pentecost in 1490. She lived there happily, frequently lost in prayer, until her death 11 years later. Bishops, priests, and magistrates came to consult her about their various problems, and to ask her prayers. When the plague was decimating the peninsula in 1494, she told the people to dedicate the city to Saint Dominic and Saint Catherine. Her request was executed and the plague immediately ceased. She is said to have been ruthlessly persecuted by Lucrezia Borgia, but no details are available.

Despite all this heavenly activity, Columba was a very kind superior, who never expected any of her charges to imitate her extreme penances. She claimed, "No sister dead to grace can remain in a convent; for either she will repent of her sins, or she will be cast out on the cold shores of the world, or, of her own free will, she will leave the blessed retreat of the cloister."

Columba of Rieti died on the eve of the Feast of the Ascension at the age of 34. At the moment of her death, her soul appeared radiant in glory, to her spiritual friend, Blessed Osanna of Mantua (Benedictines, Dorcy).

In art, Columba is a Dominican tertiary to whom an angel brings the Eucharist. At times a hand may reach down from heaven to give her the Host, with a wreath of roses, cross, lily, and rosary; or with a dove, lily, and book (Roeder).


Ethelbert of East Anglia M (AC)
Died near Hereford, England, in 793. King Ethelbert had a considerable cultus during the middle ages, although some, such as William of Malmesbury, have misgivings about the continuance of his veneration. He was murdered at Sutton Walls in Herefordshire, apparently for dynastic reasons at the instigation of the wife of Offa of Mercia. His pious vita, written by Giraldus Cambrensis, tells us that Ethelbert was a man of prayer from his childhood. While still very young, he succeeded his father Ethelred as king of East Anglia and ruled benevolently for 44 years. It is said that his usual maxim is that the higher the station of man, the humbler he ought to be. This was the rule for his own conduct.

Desiring to secure stability for his kingdom by an heir, he sought the hand of the virtuous Alfreda, daughter of the powerful King Offa. With this in mind, he visited Offa at Sutton-Wallis, four miles Hereford. He was courteously entertained, but after some days, treacherously murdered by Grimbert, an officer of king Offa, through the contrivance of queen Quendreda who wanted to add his kingdom to their own.

His body was secretly buried at Maurdine of Marden, but miracles revealed its hiding place. Soon it was moved to a church at Fernley (Heath of Fern), now called Hereford. The town grew around the church bearing Ethelbert's name after King Wilfrid of Mercia enlarged and enriched it.

Quendreda died miserably within three months after her crime. Her daughter Alfreda became a hermit at Croyland. Offa made atonement for the sin of his queen by a pilgrimage to Rome, where he founded a school for the English. Egfrid, the only son of Offa, died after a reign of some months, and the Mercian crown was translated into the family descended of Penda (Attwater, Benedictines).


Blessed Guy de Gherardescha, Hermit (AC)
Born in Pisa, Italy; died 1099. Guy led a solitary life at Campo in the diocese of Massa Maritima, Italy (Benedictines).


Hilary of Toulouse B (AC)
4th century. All that is known is that he was bishop of Toulouse, France (Benedictines). In art, Hilary is a bearded bishop superintending the building of a chapel for the relics of Saint Saturninus (Roeder).


Blessed Orlando of Vallombrosa, OSB Vall. Hermit (AC)
Died 1242. Orlando was a Vallombrosan lay-brother who was celebrated as an exorcist (Benedictines).


Plautilla of Rome, Widow (RM)
Died c. 67. She is alleged to have been the mother of Saint Flavia Domitilla, to have been baptized by Saint Peter, and to have been present at the martyrdom of Saint Paul (Benedictines). Saint Plautilla is depicted in art in the act of giving her veil to Saint Paul on his way to martyrdom. Saint Paul may appear to her after his death to return the veil to her (as on the bronze doors of Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome) or she may be shown with Flavia Domitilla. She is venerated in Rome (Roeder).


Thalelaeus and Companions MM (RM)
Born in Lebanon; died c. 284. The son of a Roman general, Thalelaeus became a physician at Anazarbus, Cilicia, where he was called 'the Merciful' for his gratis services to the sick poor, and fled to escape the persecution of Christians under Emperor Numerian. Thalelaeus was captured, brought to Aegea, Cilicia (mistakenly called Edessa, Syria, in the Roman Martyrology), and then beheaded when an attempt to drown him failed. Also martyred with him were Alexander and Asterius, two bystanders, who may have been the officers in charge of his execution, because of their compassion for him, and other spectators who were converted by his constancy (Benedictines, Delaney).


Theodore of Pavia B (RM)
Died 778. Theodore was bishop of Pavia, Italy, from 743 to 778. He had to endure much, including repeated banishment, at the hands of the Arian Lombard kings (Benedictines).



About Saints of the Day
These summaries were prepared in 1998 by St. Patrick's parishioner Katherine I. Rabenstein and are reproduced on www.saintpatrickdc.org with the permission of the author. Note that the content has not been updated since that time and represents the research of the author. An alphabetical index of all saints on our site is available. Source references are also available. HTML formatting © 2007-2008 by St. Patrick's Catholic Church, Washington, D.C.