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THE HOLY NAME OF JESUS IN THE PREACHING OF ST. BERNARDINE OF SIENA* Over a period of several centuries medieval piety had become increasingly individualistic and subjective as it lost grasp of the sacramental -liturgical foundation of the Christian life. For a long time before the era of Bernardine of Siena the corporate nature of the Church and of salvation had become fragmented into a congeries of practices and devotions, conceived in the main as an answer to man's anxieties concerning his personal safety and salvation. Bernardine was a man of his times, suffering its limitations and yet, precisely because he was so much at one with his milieu, he was able to make a profound impression on his hearers. He also transcended the narrowness of his period in many ways and sought to re-estabbsh among Christians a sense of corporate salvation in Christ. He sought to overcome the unbelievable divisiveness of his age by means of a vigorous and profound presentation of salvation in Christ, the unique Saviour and Mediator for all men. He pursued this eminently pastoral programme by means of a vivid and comprehensive theological promotion of the Name of Jesus. We would like to preface our analysis of this central theme of his preaching by some introductory remarks on the nature of his apostolate in the social context of his times. I. The Nature of Bernardine's Apostolate It can be said that Bernardine carries over into the 15th century the type of missionary preaching inaugurated by St. Vincent Ferrer at the end of the previous century, giving it, however, the stamp of his own genius.1 His apostolate was missionary in the basic sense that it aimed at the conversion of the mass of the baptized to the life of grace and the annual reception of the sacraments of Penance and Eucharist. The style of preaching tended to stress moral truths more than doctrinal although, as we shall see in this article, the saving truths of the gospel message were repeatedly preached in order to strengthen Christian faith. * Cf. a previous article by the present writer in Franciscan Studies 27 (1967), 221—247. The abbreviations used are explained, 221. 1 Cf. E. Delaruelle, E.-R. Labande, P. Ourliac, L'Eglise au temps du Grand Schisme et de la crise conciliaire (1387—-144c), t. 2, (Paris, 1964), 636. 38LOMAN McAODHA, O. F. M. Bernardine understood the apostolate in terms of a renewal in the Church and this was natural for one who was so much inspired by St. Francis and the Spiritual tradition in the Franciscan Order. He travelled through Italy with a team of helpers who had special faculties to hear confessions. At the same time, like St. Francis, he never set out to downgrade the secular clergy whom he never castigated publicly as many of the popular preachers of the time were wont to do.2 He addressed the clergy in a separate gathering3 because he knew that renewal in the Church must have its roots in each local Church. His conviction was: "non si fe' mai riformazione di chiesa generale, ma si particulare".4 Bernardine knew well that the witness of fervent religious life could be of far-reaching influence on a local Church6 and he integrated reform in Franciscan observance into his missionary apostolate. During the years of his activity more than two hundred convents were either founded by Bernardine or converted to the ideals of the Observance .6 This movement gave a certain stability to Bernardine's influence and it also provided renowned preachers of his own kind for the second half of the 15th century.7 Bernardine and his companions, bving in poverty and simpbcity and travelling on foot usually stopped for a day or two in the smaller centres of population but concentrated more on month-long periods in the towns and cities. His entry into a city was not only a rebgious event but a civic one for he was frequently invited by the civic authorities to establish or restore peace among the citizens by means of his preaching.8 The preaching of social peace and harmony was a constant feature of his apostolate in which...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1945-9718
Print ISSN
0080-5459
Pages
pp. 37-65
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
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