Saint Bernardine of Siena
Bernardine was born at Massa in the province of Siena, Italy, in the year 1380. His father was Tollo of the old and noble family of the Albizeschi of Siena. His mother, called Nera, was of the noble house of Avveduti. After the death of his mother, the Albizeschi sent for the young orphan to come to Siena to study, for they were very anxious to prepare him to be worthy of his name. Bernardine made great progress in the schools of Siena and received great praise for his abilities. He studied under the famous Master, John of Spoleto, who was then teaching Philosophy, a teacher, who was honored with the title of “The Mirror of Virtue.” The pupil and the Master became friends. The Master admired the ability and solid judgment of his pupil. In extreme old age, John of Spoleto said:“No pupil of mine has greater ability than Bernardine. I have never met his equal for excellence in all kinds of virtue.” At the age of 17, he finished his course of Philosophy and turned his attention to the study of Civil and Canon Law, of the Holy Scripture and Theology.
On the eighth of September in the year 1402, at the age of 22, he entered the Franciscan Order to dedicate his life to the service of God and his fellow man. Vested in the brown habit of the little poor man of Assisi, Bernardine set forth to teach the truth to the inhabitants of the different towns of Tuscany. The knowledge of his fame spread and his reputation increased with his success. The people of the valley of Seriana, of Castelnuovo, Tortorna, Alessandria, Milan, Cremona and Piacenza were docile to his teachings.
In the little town of Treviso in Northern Italy, the voice of the Apostle of Peace was heard. He spoke on the Holy Name of Jesus and successfully broke down civil strife and disorder. He then dedicated the rest of his life to preaching on the Most Holy Name. According to the testimony of his contemporaries, Saint Bernardine was the greatest orator of his time. No one exercised greater influence over the masses. Aeneas Piccolomini, afterward Pope Pius II, who had heard Bernardine in his youth, tells us that: “His eloquence was inexhaustible and his learning prodigious. He was admired and revered by all as another Saint Paul, as a vessel of election.” Blessed Albert of Sartiano, who accompanied Bernardine on his missions stated: “This truly eminent man, Bernardine, the greatest ornament of the Franciscan Order, taught the people of this country with wonderful wisdom and discernment, and labored to maintain them in theirgood dispositions. …”
For 40 years, Bernardine bore the burden of his apostleship. On the twentieth of May, 1444, at the age of 64, with a smile on his lips he slept sweetly in this world to awake in the eternity of the world to come.