Today we celebrate the memorial of St. Bernadine of Siena. Bernadine loved the blessed Mother and shared with her the same birthday, September 8. Many other significant events in his life would also take place on that date, by his choice: He took the religious habit, made his vows, celebrated his first Mass and preached his first sermon all on the 8th of September.
Bernadine was also known as an outstanding preacher. He is described as the greatest preacher of his time. He is particularly known for his promotion of devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus. The universal Church did not celebrate the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus until 1721; the good saint was born in 1380.
Scripture is full of references to the power of Jesus’ name:
Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11)
Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. (Romans 10:13)
And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; (Mark 16:17)
As the song says, “There is something about that name.” And Saint Bernadine knew it full well. The name of Jesus invokes the power of God. The very utterance of His name contains power, a power so great that it works miracles.
“If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” (John 14:14)
The demons tremble at the mention of Jesus’ name.
A name is deeply personal. Even our human names are the source of our identity and thus quite anchored to our feelings of who we are. Is it any wonder that the very utterance of the name of the God-man contains within it the power of God?
Saint Bernadine suggested placing the monogram of Jesus’ name, IHS, over the gates of cities and above the doors of homes.
When Saint Bernadine convinced the people to stop gambling, the painter of the cards complained to him that he had lost his livelihood. The good saint instructed him to paint a sun with IHS (the name of Jesus) in the middle instead. The painter did, and the image became so popular that he became a wealthy man.
Saint Bernadine was canonized in 1450, only six years after his death.
Mothers might be encouraged to read the words of Saint Bernadine in today’s Magnificat:
If you do a good deed, be it ever so simple, and do it out of love and of charity, this is most pleasing to God; for though it may be little, it is indeed very pleasing to him. But he does wish in truth that you proceed from good to better. … Have you seen great riches come all of a sudden, and as quickly as they come so quickly do they depart? Therefore I say it is better that you should proceed little by little from virtue to virtue.
Lo! Consider water … if you would heat it, first it rises to such a degree that it becomes lukewarm. And leaving it longer on the fire it passes from the lukewarm stage to heat. … So doth a soul which is cold, and wishes to attain to the heat of the love of God.
What are some ways we could grow in holiness little by little? We could focus on just a few virtues, such as patience or love. We might try reverently saying the name of Jesus softly throughout the day.
At a red light we can pray, “Lord may I grow in patience every time I have to wait,” and then embrace the patience. Before reprimanding a child we could take 10 or 15 seconds to call upon the name of Jesus or to pray to the child’s patron saint that our response might be one of love.
When at a store, we can make it a point to speak to the cashier and, if she has a nametag, call her by name. Ask how her day is going or comment on the weather. Smile. See if in those few minutes we can make her day a little better.
We can pray for the safety of the rude driver or the homeless person begging.
Or we could do something even smaller. Maybe pick up someone else’s leftover tissue at Mass and throw it away. Or scoop up that last Cheerio that the frazzled mom didn’t notice.
May we all call upon the name of Jesus that we might grow in holiness every day, from good to better, developing virtue little by little … through the intercession of Saint Bernadine of Siena and by the power of the Holy Name of Jesus.
In what ways might we “proceed little by little from virtue to virtue?”
Copyright 2019 Rosemary Bogdan