Saturday, May 20, 2023

Saint Bernadine: The Love of Jesus for All

May 20 is the feast day of Saint Bernadine of Siena (1380-1444), a Franciscan born in the same year that his great compatriot—the Dominican Saint Catherine of Siena—died.

During one of the most openly corrupt and violent periods in the history of Western Christendom, Bernadine worked ardently and tirelessly to preach reform and reconciliation throughout the Italian peninsula. His witness brought many people to conversion, and restored harmony in places that had been dominated by seemingly implacable factions waging what amounted to civil wars that brought great hardship to the poor and powerless members of the population. 

His words resonate in our own time, in the darkness of so many vicious and combative places in the world, where God is ignored, love has grown cold, and the poor and defenseless suffer the consequences of so much human malice, negligence, and chaos which inevitably bring war and violence in their wake.

Bernadine reminds us today that it is through prayer that we become instruments of peace. Certainly, issues need to be addressed and justice needs to be done, but it is the "energy" of the humble love of those who beg for Christ, who surrender to God's love, that sustains all human efforts to seek healing, recompense, reconciliation, and lasting peace. The begging heart opens a "space" for the Lord to pour out all the glory of His unconquerable love, the gift of eternal life that we have all been created to receive.

"Prayer extends not to oneself alone but to the entire city. Let each one ask grace from God for the love of Jesus, notwithstanding that you are a sinner. And because we all have need of the grace of God, we must all ask it. Therefore I say that you should tell your sons and your daughters to recite five Our Fathers and five Hail Marys, to the end that the good God shall send unity and concord among all people, and that he may put into the hearts of all that which shall be above all to the glory of God and the salvation of their souls" (Saint Bernadine of Siena).