St. Bernardine of Siena
FRANCISCAN PREACHER AND MISSIONARY
Unlike many of the other Saints we encounter, St Bernardine -besides having an intriguing name that could
be feminine!!- is actually 'mentioned' in the calendar as an optional Saint for the day. So the Calendar remains officially Green -We're in Ordinary time now my good people!!- but for those a little more interested in our Saints, a White option does exist for Good old St Bernadette...I mean Bernardine!
One reason for that, is that he had an impact on people. Many of our Saints were inflamed with love for God, but kept that fire almost as a private devotion. Not this guy! St. Bernardine, a true disciple of St. Francis, was an admirable preacher of the word of God, and was made by God an instrument to kindle the same holy fire in innumerable souls, and to inspire them with his spirit of humility and meekness. Another fine example of someone who would be counter cultural today!! Who would be inspired by humility and meekness today? Well, our pope would! Catholics should be, but we don't always appear to be. I should add, he was counter cultural even in his time. The account of his life speaks of many episodes of young people chasing him around, throwing rocks at him. Perhaps the humble figure was too much even for them to handle.
Perhaps because of the not always so favorable reaction he received, his affection for the poor was strong from an early age. One story says that one day, when a beggar was turned away from his Aunt's house, he begged and pleaded with his aunt that something be given to this man who may not have anything to eat that night. it's said about St Bernardine that he also had a phenomenal memory for scripture and homilies, but his real wisdom came from his compassion, his ability to recognize the need of others, and to answer those needs to the best of his abilities -including as a hospital administrator in a time when Europe was being ravaged by plagues, and 20 people a day could die in any one city.-
He did eventually become a bright amber for the souls of the Church, not just in Italy but across Europe, where his fame as a speaker spread and he was able to infuse the faithful with the same deep love for God that he carried.
Today, we return to Ordinary time in the Church liturgical calendar, but in truth, there is absolutely nothing ordinary in either the readings or the Saint. We may feel daunted even, when looking at Saints like Bernardine, and think 'but I could never do anything like that' and feel that the call to sainthood is limited to the select few. Likewise, we may commiserate with the Apostles today, who, no matter how much they love and devote themselves to Jesus, just fall short of doing what he did because of their 'faithlessness'. We may think 'yup, I would have a made a great apostle if NOT doing miracles is a criterion for the job!'.
But the powerful message that sends us back to the basics of our faith is that, neither the miracles, nor the life of Saints are rooted in complicated things. They are instead rooted in prayer. As Pope Francis expressed this morning in his homily, a simple, but "courageous, humble and strong prayer (is what) can accomplish miracles." (there's a poignant story that he tells that goes with it. To read it and the rest of the that homily, follow the link http://www.news.va/en/news/pope-at-mass-courageous-humble-prayer-can-work-won) And this is exactly what Jesus is trying to explain to the Apostles. Yes they are a faithless generation, not divine as Jesus is, and they resist many of his teachings...but all of this could be dealt with through a simple but persistent prayer life. Therein is the genius of any religion. People who are spiritual, are not wise because of years and years of studies. They are wise because they are connected, and in tune with God through a profound prayer life. They are connected to divine Wisdom, which exists all around us and within us.
We see an expression of this in the book of Sirach (*sigh* how wonderful to be back to the old Testament for our first readings! And to come back to Wisdom literature...I'm in heaven!). The entire chapter is an exploration of God's wisdom as expressed in creation, in humans and in the divine. What I find exciting about this portrayal of wisdom is that, it's described as attainable, but at the same time, eternally mysterious. Completely withing our reach like drops of rains, but at the same time, unfathomable...like drops of rains!! Now, of course we 'understand' rain. We can predict it (most of the times!) and there's not much mysterious about it to us...and yet, we don't control it. We don't own it. We can't count it -not really, not each individual drops!-. It, remains in many ways, is unfathomable to us. Much like God's wisdom. And yet, our lives are filled with it -both the rain and the divine Wisdom!!-. What we do it, how we understand it, how we let that wisdom shape us...that will depend on us. On the depth of our prayer, and the freedom we have to respond to it, and to God's love for us.
Enough deep stuff for today. Onto Ordinary time! All readings are in Green to celebrate our switch in the calendar!
Sirach 1: 1 - 10
1All wisdom comes from the Lord and is with him for ever.2The sand of the sea, the drops of rain, and the days of eternity -- who can count them?3The height of heaven, the breadth of the earth, the abyss, and wisdom -- who can search them out?4Wisdom was created before all things, and prudent understanding from eternity.5The root of wisdom -- to whom has it been revealed? Her clever devices -- who knows them?6There is One who is wise, greatly to be feared, sitting upon his throne.7The Lord himself created wisdom; he saw her and apportioned her, he poured her out upon all his works.8She dwells with all flesh according to his gift, and he supplied her to those who love him.9The fear of the Lord is glory and exultation, and gladness and a crown of rejoicing.10The fear of the Lord delights the heart, and gives gladness and joy and long life.
|Psalms 93: 1 - 2, 5|
|1||The LORD reigns; he is robed in majesty; the LORD is robed, he is girded with strength. Yea, the world is established; it shall never be moved;|
|2||thy throne is established from of old; thou art from everlasting.|
|5||Thy decrees are very sure; holiness befits thy house, O LORD, for evermore|