St. Bernardine – A St. Paul of the 15th Century
St. Bernardine was from Siena, Italy and was ordained a Franciscan priest at the age of 24 in the year 1402. He took upon himself the poverty of the Franciscan Order and expressed an acute awareness for the needs of people of his time. He was known for his personal holiness and his seemingly endless energy and joyful vitality. The pope at the time compared Bernardine to a modern day St. Paul.
Before being ordained, the plague hit his hometown of Siena very hard. In this time of great difficulty, St. Bernardine offered to run the local hospital at the age of 20. He spent four months nursing the people who came for care. He did not succumb to the plague, but he was so exhausted from his hard work that he had a fever for several months afterwards.
A Franciscan Heart
St. Francis had given the charge to his order to preach about vice and virtue, punishment and glory. The great preacher of the 15th Century, St. Bernardine, did just that. Paganism had taken hold in many places as the result of the Renaissance return to Greco-Roman culture. This stirred up within the heart of St. Bernardine a desire to care for the physical and spiritual needs of the people.
St. Bernardine eventually became the General of the Friars of Strict Observance of the Franciscan Order. He pushed scholarship and a deep study of the law of the Church and the doctrines of the Faith. There were 140 friars in the community when he joined. Upon his death, there were 4,000. He gave his life to preaching and teaching, literally dying while traveling.
Overcoming Paganism and Division
As a prolific traveler and preacher, St. Bernardine saw clearly the paganism that had taken root once more in Italy. These many false gods and false beliefs were leading people astray. But, St. Bernardine knew well that “…there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12)” than the name of Jesus.
St. Bernardine had a great devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus. He devised a monogram for the Holy Name of Jesus: IHS, written in gothic script and emblazoned on a sun. These are the capital Greek letters: iota, eta, and sigma. They are the first three letters of the name of Jesus in Greek which is ΙΗΣΟΎΣ. Like other graphics that represent the name of Jesus or Christ, this is called a Christogram.
The Christogram was placed on a sun because there had been a resurgence in 15th Century Italy of sun worship. Byzantine Greeks had brought copies of the fourth-century Hymn to the Sun by Julian the Apostate, for example. The cult of Apollo needed to be replaced by the true and authentic worship of Jesus Christ, who alone is the sun that rises in the East and who is the only Son of the Father.
St. Bernardine would often exhibit this monogram devoutly at the end of his sermons to those listening. He also encouraged the faithful to place the monogram on their doorposts. At the time, there was deep political division between two groups: the Guelphs and the Ghibellines. St. Bernardine urged people to adopt the IHS rather than the banners of these two groups.
An Enduring Symbol for an Enduring Name
The IHS is therefore a symbol of peace, a symbol of orthodoxy, a symbol of fidelity to the Lord, and a powerful symbol to cling to Jesus and adore His Holy Name. The IHS would later be adopted by St. Ignatius of Loyola as the symbol for the Society of Jesus. Thus, the symbol has persisted from the time of the early Church to now.
More Catholic Resources
Saints aren’t born saints, they are forged in fire. They all started small, very small. Like you or me, they were once babies, children. They cried, whined, spurted food in embarrassing ways, needed diaper changes, etc. They were fragile and vulnerable. Their first experience of God’s infinite love was a very finite one: a […]
St. Padre Pio’s Communion Prayer St. Padre Pio’s Prayer To Say After Receiving Communion My past, O Lord, I entrust to your mercy. My present to your love. My future to your providence. More Resources On St. Padre Pio The Holiness and Sufferings of Padre Pio (Plus a Rare Peek Into His Life!) Pray, Hope […]
St. Teresa of Calcutta prayed the “Radiating Christ” prayer daily. It is thought to have been written by St. John Henry Newman. Radiating Christ Dear Jesus, help me to spread Thy fragrance everywhere I go. Flood my soul with Thy spirit and love. Penetrate and possess my whole being so utterly that all my life […]
When we are baptized, a special pair of adults are chosen in addition to our parents to be our spiritual guides. Personally, my godparents go above and beyond the call in their commitment to this vital role in a child’s life. I’ve watched how they love unconditionally, treat others with respect, and talk openly with me […]
You probably have a rosary lying around your house somewhere. Maybe you received it as a Confirmation gift or picked one up when the sweet old lady was passing them out at church, but you don’t really know what to do with it. If you remember praying the rosary as a kid as something […]
I’ve been trying to go to Confession more regularly because I have been so encouraged by some of the articles we have posted here on Catholic-Link. (Find them here!) One of the many benefits of going more often has been that I’ve been able to see a pattern in the sins that I’m confessing. What […]
With this Catholic-Link production, “The Life of Pope Francis in 4 Minutes”. Our idea is to help Catholics and non-Catholics alike get to know the life and story of Pope Francis. While it is true that the Holy Father represents all Catholics, he is still only one man and therefore does this in a way which […]
What led St. John Paul II to greatness? Was it because of his apostolic success, his impressive figure, or his untiring travels? Why is he so beloved by Catholics? No doubt, all this is important, but it isn’t enough. John Paul the II has been recognized a saint for a different reason… Now, allow us […]
Days before the launch of our video, “Saint John Paul II, the Life of a Holy Pope“, we were invited by EWTN and Catholic News Agency (CNA) to participate in an interview about the project. We had no idea that our Saint John Paul II Cartoon would go viral! Check it out and use it in […]
Due to the overwhelming response from the first Eucharist quiz and the number of people who claimed that it was “too easy”, we have decided to publish a Eucharist Challenge. We underestimated the knowledge of the average Catholic Link reader. We promise this one will stretch you a bit more and maybe even teach you […]