Publish date 25-01-2022
A farmer and his wife had a beautiful child and a dog, good and much loved. One day they both go to the market and leave the dog to guard the child. On their return, the dog goes to meet them, wagging its tail with a bloody mouth. The farmer thinks the worst and kills him. But when he enters his son's room, he finds him lively and sprightly next to a large slain snake. Sorrowful, he buries the dog with all honors and makes him a beautiful grave where he occasionally goes to pray. People stop to honor the good dog too. Time passes, the memory of the event dissolves, people continue to go to pray on that grave but no one remembers that it is a dog's grave anymore. Someone receives a grace, miracles happen. «And it was a dog!», Comments Saint Bernardino of Siena. At every miracle, Jesus does not mind saying: Daughter, your faith has saved you, May it be done to you according to your faith? It is faith that makes miracles happen: it is up to us to take the first step to believe and abandon ourselves to God. To comment on that passage from Matthew which says that slander and all evils come from the heart of man, Bernardino resorts to frogs. «The frog does here ... (and here Bernardino, who was a great imitator of sounds, would start croaking). But when "I know the pit where I know", they immediately flee below, and "no one" is more motto. So does the slanderer; when he wants to slander, he uses "what to say here". And how can we defend ourselves? "He who hears himself called, that he goes there: here I am, what is he? He is no longer anything" ». Thanks to a devoted cloth cutter who had invented a form of shorthand, the sermons of San Bernardino from 1427 have come down to us. He is a cultured Franciscan theologian but he speaks in the vernacular, when priests still preach in Latin. He avoids scholarly quotations like the plague, uses the techniques of the theater, speaks chiarazo chiarazo and with the heart, to move and enlighten. He refers to the only images that the people of that time saw, the stories of salvation frescoed on the walls of the churches and in the palaces.
Did he have an easier life today? Not that much. At a certain point, in an effort to find an antidote to people's recourse to magic, with skilful direction of sounds and lights he brings out a tablet with the abbreviation of the name of Jesus: IHS written inside a sun with 12 large rays (the 12 articles of faith) and 144 small ones (the 144,000 elect of the Apocalypse) and a cross rising from the letter H. The tablet gets him into trouble, he is accused of spreading heretical doctrines such as the importance of letters, typical of Jewish mysticism. He is summoned to Rome, he risks being burned if a sea of people in procession did not change the inquisitors' minds.
God incarnate requires incarnation at all times. Today, when we are overwhelmed by images and speeches of all kinds, it is rather up to the preachers to deepen, reveal the hidden meaning. But everyone, in every age, is adoring "the substance that is under this letter" of the name of Jesus, said Bernardino. "There are three" writing ": one in the heart, one in the word and one in the example": life. There is no trick there: if you really love him, the name of Jesus will be transmitted without words.
NP October 2021