Mandeville, LA – If you have ever marveled at, then wondered where the beautiful arrangement of the letters “IHS” with a Crucifix came from, this Saint story is for you.
Saint Bernardin of Sienna was born in 1380 on the feast of the Nativity of Our Blessed Lady; when he was 3 years old his mother died and at the tender age of 7 his father followed her. Bernardin was then raised by a pious Aunt whose name was Diana; this woman had a zealous devotion to Our Lady and thus, in his time, Bernardin grew to have one of the strongest devotions to the Blessed Mother of Our Lord. When he was 22 Bernardin was ordained a Franciscan friar and for the next 14 years he fervently prayed without ceasing, living principally as a hermit, but all that was about to change. The Reverend Alban Butler details Bernardin’s ordination and one of the reasons for his devotion to our lady.
“After some time he took the habit of the Order of St. Francis, among the fathers of the Strict Observance at Colombiere, a solitary convent a few miles from Sienna; and after the year of his novitiate, made his profession on the 8th of September, 1404. Having been born on the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin, out of devotion to her, he chose the same day for the principal actions of his life: on it he took the religious habit, made his vows, said his first mass, and preached his first sermon…He laboured under a natural impediment from weakness and hoarseness of voice; the removal of which obstacle he obtained by addressing himself to his glorious patroness, the mother of God. For fourteen years his labours were confined to his own country; but when the reputation of his virtue was spread abroad, he shone as a bright light to the whole church.”
Saint Bernardin left the cloister to preach, his voice now completely restored and his hoarseness gone; he is said to have preached the entire latitude of Italy from Sicily to Genoa and the entire width as well. His preaching was so famous that at some towns he attracted 30,000; Pope Pius II, upon hearing Bernardin is quoted as saying the he had listened to “another Saint Paul”, earning him the moniker “The Apostle of Italy”.
Barnardin’s most consistent theme in his preaching was adorably reciting the Holy Name of Jesus and then venerating the name using a combination of the letters I H S with a crucifix; these were laid out by our saint then engraved onto a wooden block and then hand painted with golden paint; the arrangement had rays arranged in a halo pattern that emanated from the crucufix in the center. This design is still in use in sacred vestments today. Terry Prest describes the creation and origin of the Saint’s devotion and the I H S Crest.
“As a child he had been taught to venerate The Holy Name of Jesus in a special manner. On reading the epistles of Saint Paul, he had found the Divine Name on almost every line. The Name of Jesus was the usual theme of his addresses.
He used to hold a board in front of him while preaching, with the sacred monogram painted on it in the midst of rays and afterwards expose it for veneration. The monogram was JHS (“Jesus Hominum Salvator” “Jesus Saviour of Men”)
The emblem or monogram of The Holy Name is usually in most portraits of him. As are the three bishops` mitres in recognition of the fact that he turned down three offers from various Popes of various powerful bishoprics in Italy
His teaching was vindicated by the feast of the Triumph of the Holy Name, conceded to the Friars Minor in 1530 and extended to the Universal Church in 1722.”
Butler details one of the more famous tales of Barnardin preaching the truth to the masses, being upbraided for it, then converting the reprobate to The Faith.
“When the saint preached first at Milan, the haughty duke Philip Mary Visconti took offence at certain things which he had said in his sermons, and threatened him with death if he should presume to speak any more on such subjects; but the saint declared, that no greater happiness could befal him than to die for the truth. The duke, to try him, sent him a present of one hundred ducats of gold in a golden bowl. The saint excused himself from receiving the money to two different messengers; but being compelled by a third to accept it, he took the messenger with him to the prisons, and laid it all out in his presence in releasing debtors. This disinterestedness turned the duke’s aversion into the greatest veneration for the saint ever after.” [emphasis mine-MC]
Saint Bernardin declined the invitation to become a bishop 3 times once in 1427, once in 1431 and finally declining the bishopric of Urbino, offered him by Pope Eugenius III an 1435. Bernardin’s calling was preaching and being among the faithful performing, through the Holy Name of Christ, works of piety and many miracles.
“Besides several predictions and miraculous cures of many lepers and other sick persons, the saint is recorded to have raised four dead persons to life.” – Butler’s Lives etc.
Saint Bernard died on the 20th of May, 1444 and was canonized a mere 5 years later by Pope Nicholas the 5th. Since the second Vatican Council, Saint Bernardin’s feast day was been all but removed from the calendar but it was partially restored by Pope John Paul II in 2003. His body is kept in a crystal shrine, enclosed in one of silver, in the church of his Order at Aquila, Italy.