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BERNARDINE


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BERNARDINE


tablets he had used to promote devotion to the Holy Name being made the basis of a clever attack by the adherents of the Dominican, Manfred of Vercelli, whose false preaching about Antichrist Bernardine had combated. The saint was charged with having introduced a profane, new devoton which exposed the people to the danger of idolatry, and he was cited to appear before the pope. This was in 1427. Martin V received Bernardine coldly and forbade him to preach or exhibit his tablets until his conduct had been examined. The saint humbly submitted, his sermons and writings being handed over to a commission and a day set for his trial. The latter took place at St. Peter's in presence of the pope, 8 June, St. John Capistran having charge of the saint's defence. The malice and futility of the charges against Bernardine were so completely demonstrated that the pope not only justified and commended the saint's teaching, but urged him to preach in Rome. Martin V subsequently approved Bernardine's election as Bishop of Siena. The saint, however, declined this honour as well as the Sees of Ferrara and Urbino, offered to him in 1431 and 14.35, respectivel}-, saying plaj'iuUy that all Italy was already his diocese. After the accession of Eugene IV Bernardine's enemies renewed their accusations against him, but the pope by a Bull, 7 January, 1432, annulled their highhanded, secret proceedings and thus reduced the saint's calumniators to silence, nor does the question seem to have been reopened during the Coimcil of Basle as some have asserted. The vindication of Bernardine's teaching was perpefviated 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.

In 1433 Bernardine accompanied the Emperor Sig- ismund to Rome for the latter's coronation. Soon after he withdrew to Capriola to compose a series of sermons. He resumed his missionary labours in 1436, but was forced to abandon them in 1438 on his election as Vicar-General of the Observants through- out Italy. Bernardine had laboured strenuously to spread this branch of the Friars Minor from the outset of his religious life, but it is erroneous to style him its founder since the origin of the Observants may be traced back to the middle of the fourteenth century. Although not the immediate founder of this reform, Bernardine became to the Observants what St. Bernard was to the Cistercians — their principal support and indefatigable propagator. Some idea of his zeal may be gathered from the fact that, instead of the one hundred and thirty Friars constituting the Observance in Italy at Bernardine's reception into the order, it counted over four thou- sand before his tleath. In atklition to the number he received into the order, Bernardine himself founded, or reformed, at least three hundred convents of Friars. Not content with extending his religious family at home, Bernardine sent missionaries to different parts of the Orient and it was largely through his efforts that so many ambassadors from different schismatical nations attended the Council of Florence in which we find the saint addressing the assembled Fathers in Greek. Having in 1442 persuaded the pope to accept his resignation as vicar-general so that he might give himself more undividedly to preaching, Bernardine resumed his missionary labours. Al- though a Bull was issued by Eugene IV, 26 May, 1443, charging Bernardine to preach the indulgence for the Crusade against the Turks, there is no record of his having done so. There is, moreover, no good reason to believe that the saint ever preached out- side Ital}', and the missionary journey to Palestine mentioned by one of his early biographers may per- haps be traced to a confusion of names.

in 1444, notwithstanding his increasing infirmi- ties, Bernardine, desirous that there should be no


part of Italy which had not heard his voice, set out to evangelize the Kingdom of Naples. Being too weak to walk, he was compelled to ride an ass. But worn out by his laborious apostolate of forty years the saint was taken down with fever and reached Aquila in a dying state. There lying on the bare ground he passed away on Ascension eve, the 20th of May, just as the Friars in choir were chanting the anthem: Pater manifestavi nomen Tuum hominibu-s . . . ad Te venio. The magistrates refused to allow Bernardine's body to be removed to Siena, and after a funeral of unprecedented splendour laid it in the church of the Conventuals. Miracles multiphed after the saint's death, and he was canonized by Nicholas V, 24 May, 1450. On 17 May, 1472, Bernardine's body was solemnly translated to the new church of the Observants at Aquila, especially erected to re- ceive it, and enclosed in a costly shrine presented by Louis XI of France. Tliis church having been com- pletely destroyed by earthquake in 1703, was re- placed by another edifice where the precious relics of St. Bernardine are still venerated. His feast is celebrated on 20 May.

St. Bernardine is accounted the foremost ItaUan missionary of the fifteenth century, the greatest preacher of his day, the Apostle of the Holy Name, and the restorer of the Order of Friars Minor. He remains one of the most popular of Itahan saints, more especially in his own Siena. With both painters and sculptors he has ever been a favourite figure. He frequently finds a place in della Robbia groups; per- haps the best series of pictures of his life is that by Pinturicchio at Ara Cceli in Rome, while the carved reliefs on the facade of the Oratory of Perugia, built in 1461 by the magistrates of that faction-rent city in gratitude for Bernardine's efforts for peace among them, are considered one of the lovehest productions of Renaissance art. But the best portrait of Bernar- dine is to be found in his own sermons and this is es- pecially true of those in the vernacular. That we arc able to enter so thoroughly into the spirit of these Prediche volgari is due to the pious industry of one Benedetto, a Sienese fuller, who took down word for word, with a style on wax tablets, a complete course of Bernardine's Lenten sermons delivered in 1427, and afterwards transcribed them on parchment. Bene- detto's original MS. is lost, but several very ancient copies of it are extant. All the forty-five sermons it comprises have been printed (Le Prediche Volgari tli San Bernardino di Siena. Edite da Luciano Banchi, Siena, 1880-88, 3 vols.). These sermons which often lasted three or four hours, throw much light on the fifteenth-century preaching and on the customs and manners of the time. Couched in the simplest anil most popular language — for Bernardine everyivhere adapted himself to the local dialect and parlance — they aboimd in illustrations, anecdotes, digressions, and asides. The saint often resorted to mimicry and was much given to making jokes. But his native Sienese gayety and characteristic Franciscan playful- ness detracted nothing from the effect of his sermons, and his exhortations to the people to avert God's wrath by penance, are as powerful as his appeals for peace and charity are pathetic. Very different from these popular Italian sermons taken down della vira voce are the series of Latin sermons written by Bernardine, which are in fact formal dissertations with minute divisions and subdivisions, intended to elucidate his teaching and to serve rather as a guide to himself and others than for practical de- livery. Besides these Latin sermons which reveal profound theological knowledge, Bernardine left a number of other writings which enjoy a high reputa- tion — dissertations, essays, and letters on practical, ascetical, and mystical thcologj', and on religious discipUne, including treatises on the Blessed Virgin and St. Joseph, used in the Breviary lessons, and a