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May 20

St Bernardine of Siena

​Saint Bernardine of Siena

Priest, “Apostle of Italy”

(1380 – 1444)

“The power of the priest, is the power of the divine person, for the transubstantiation of the bread, requires as much power, as the creation of the world.

Saint Bernardine of Siena

Saint’s Life Story

An Orphan Raised by His Aunt

​Bernardino degli Albizzeschi was born in Massa Marittima, Italy some 30 miles from Siena, on September 8, 1380, to noble parents. His father held the post of the governor of Massa. Both his parents died within a few years.  At the age of 7 Bernardine became an orphan and was raised by his aunt.

Pious Young Man

Young Bernardine excelled in learning. He was modest, humble, devout, and took great delight in prayer, visiting churches, serving at Mass, and hearing sermons, which he would repeat again to other boys. His mere presence was enough to inspire good behavior in others. The announcement “here comes Bernardine” would act as a complete check upon any unguarded conversation among his companions. He fasted rigorously from an early age. Bernardine had a great love and devotion to Our Lady, whom he regarded as his Mother and special Patroness.

Served the Sick

In 1397 at the age of 17, Bernardine joined the Confraternity of Our Lady in the hospital of Santa Maria della Scala in order to serve the sick. Here, he began with new vigor to tame his flesh by severe fasts, hair-shirts, disciplines, and other austerities; but he applied himself even more to the interior mortification of his will, which rendered him always sweet, patient and affable to everyone. He had served this hospital for four years when, in 1400, Siena was visited by the plague. 80,000 of its inhabitants died within four months, including almost all the priests, doctors, and servants in the hospital.


Though this service meant an almost certain death, Bernardine’s example attracted other pious young men who joined him to tend to the sick and dying: “What is greater or more beautiful than in time of peace to attain to the martyr’s crown?”, were Bernardine’s words of encouragement to his companions. God preserved him from the contagion during these four months, at the end of which the pestilence ceased.

Franciscan Friar and Hermit

Bernardine decided to abandon the world and serve God alone. He took the habit of the Order of St. Francis (Order of Friars Minor) among the Fathers of the Strict Observance at Colombiere, a solitary convent near Siena. He was ordained a priest on September 8, 1404. Bernadine lived as a hermit at Colombaio for the next 12 years.

A Hoarsh Preacher Cured Through Prayer

After Bernardine was ordained priest, his superiors commissioned him to preach as a missionary to the Italians who were falling away from their faith. Bernardine’s talent for preaching was hindered by a natural impediment: he suffered from hoarseness and could not make his voice heard. He asked God, by the intercession of the Blessed Virgin, that, should it be His will that he become a preacher and He may deliver him from this infirmity. As Bernardine prayed he saw a fiery globe descend from Heaven and touch his throat, which was instantly cured. From then on Bernardine’s voice was powerful and clear. 

Apostle of Italy

On September 8, 1417, he preached his first sermon in Milan. In a short time, his eloquent and fiery sermons attracted great crowds as he preached and travelled all over Italy.  In his sermons, which often lasted three or four hours, he exhorted people to return to God and the practice of the faith, abandon their vices, and do penance in order that Divine anger might be appeased. Gambling, a widespread vice, was another target of  Bernardine’s sermons. His preaching, his book burnings, and his “bonfires of the vanities” made him famous during his own lifetime because they were frequently directed against sorcery, gambling, infanticide, and witchcraft. He is referred to as “the Apostle of Italy” – for his efforts to revive the country’s Catholicism during the 15th century.


n 1419, on his way to Mantua where he was to preach, Bernardine had to traverse a river. Lacking money to pay the ferryman, the saint and his companion promised to offer prayers for the man in return for free passage. Upon the ferryman’s refusal, Bernardine asked his companion whether he had confidence in God and sufficient faith to do as he shall see him to. Receiving an affirmative answer, Bernadine, exclaiming “then, in the virtue of the most sweet Name of Jesus, Whom the elements obey, follow me”, stretched his cloak over the waters, and they both walked across the river as if they had been on dry land. Seeing this great miracle, the ferryman, with a contrite heart, begged Bernadine’s forgiveness.


St. Bernardine had a great devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus. He devised a symbol – IHS, the first three letters of the name of Jesus in Greek, written on a blazing sun. He had it engraved, in letters of gold, on a wooden tablet, and used to hold it up to the people after his sermons. Bernardine promoted the devotion to the Name of Jesus as a simple and effective means of recalling God’s love at all times. The devotion spread, and the symbol began to appear in churches, homes and public buildings all across the country.

Declined Being Bishop

In 1427, Bernadine was cleared by Pope Martin V of charges made against him by his enemies. He declined the position of Bishop of Siena offered to him by the Pope and later declined the positions of Bishop of Ferrara and Urbino. 

Vicar General

In 1430, St. Bernardine was appointed vicar-general for the Strict Observance (one of the two branches of the Franciscans). Himself and St. John Capistran (who succeeded him as vicar) were the two olive trees of the Reform which repaired the falling house of St. Francis. At the time of Bernardine’s admission to the Order there were only 300 Observant friars in Italy; at his death they numbered over 4000. He also founded, or reformed, at least three hundred convents.

His Death

Bernardine resigned as vicar general in 1442 from his office, and returned to preaching in northern and central Italy. In 1444, towards the end of his life, he preached in his native Massa. While he was on the way to Aquila, overcome with fatigue and fever, Bernardine had a vision of St. Peter Celestine (Pope Celestine V), who foretold him that they should share the patronage of the city (L’Aquila). Bernardine was no longer able to physically labor for the peace. So, he offered up his life to God for peace, for the prevention of scandals and sins resulting from civil strife, and for the greater glory of God. Then, he called his confessor and received the last sacraments. Bernardine asked to be placed upon ashes on the floor, where he died on May 20, 1444 in L’Aquila, Italy. St. Bernardine was canonized just 6 years after his death in 1450 by Pope Nicholas V.


Beatified:           Not Known

Canonized:        May 24, 1450 by Pope Nicholas V

Feast Day:         May 20

Patron Saint:    Advertisers; Against Hoarshness; Aquila, Italy; Chest Problems; Gambling Addicts; Italy; Public Relations 



Just imagine that your job is motivational speaking at conferences to large crowds. Except, you have a hoarsh voice and cannot speak loud to your audience. That is the situation that Saint Bernardine faced wanting to preach the Word of God and convert his audience. Saint Bernardine simply asked God, by the intercession of the Blessed Virgin, that, should it be His will, that he become a preacher and deliver him from his infirmity. God heard his prayers and gave Saint Bernardine the ability to produce eloquent sermons!

Whatever impossible impediment do you face? Have you asked God with Mary’s intercession to overcome that impediment? With God’s intercession giving us the grace, wisdom and strength to do his will, everything is possible as shown by Saint Bernardine’s life.


Prayer composed by St. Bernardine of Siena honoring the name of Jesus

Jesus, Name full of glory, grace, love and strength! You are the refuge of those who repent, our banner of warfare in this life, the medicine of souls, the comfort of those who mourn, the delight of those who believe, the light of those who preach the true faith, the wages of those who toil, the healing of the sick. To you our devotion aspires; by you our prayers are received; we delight in contemplating you. O Name of Jesus, you are the glory of all the saints for eternity. Amen.

Saint Links 

Aleteia – St. Bernardine of Siena’s prayer

All Saints & Martyrs -Saint Bernardine of Siena – Confessor

AnaStpaul – Saint of the Day May 20 – St Bernardine of Siena OFM

Angelus News – Saint of the day: St Bernardine of Siena

Catholic Culture – St. Bernardine

Catholic Exchange – St Bernardine of Siena (Priest)

Catholic Fire – Saint of the Day: St. Bernardine of Siena, Priest

Catholic Ireland – May 20 – St Bernardine of Siena (1380-1444)

Catholic News Agency – St. Bernardine of Siena Feast Day: May 20

CatholicSaints.Info – Saint Bernardine of Siena

Franciscan MediaSaint of the Day: Saint Bernardine of Siena

Loyola Press  – St. Bernardino of Siena

My Catholic Life – Saint Bernardine of Siena

Newman Ministry – Saint Bernardine of Siena

Saints, Feast, Family – Saint Bernardine of Siena’s Story

Saint of the Day – Saint Bernardine of Siena

Saint Mary’s Press -Saint Bernardino of Siena (1380-1444)

Traditional Catholic – St. Bernardine of Siena, Apostle of Italy

uCatholic – St Bernardine of Siena

Wikipedia – St Bernardino of Siena

Video Link

St.Bernardine of Siena – YouTube (Cradio)

St. Bernardine of Siena- YouTube (True Enlightenment)