The month of Mary: A Marian Month
Saint of the day:
Saint Bernardine of Siena
Patron Saint of Advertisers; advertising; Aquila, Italy; chest problems; Italy; Diocese of San Bernardino, California;
gambling addicts; public relations personnel; public relations work; Bernalda, Italy
Saint Bernardine of Siena
Saint Bernardine of Siena’s Story
Most of the saints suffer great personal opposition, even persecution. Bernardine, by contrast, seems more like a human dynamo who simply took on the needs of the world.
He was the greatest preacher of his time, journeying across Italy, calming strife-torn cities, attacking the paganism he found rampant, attracting crowds of 30,000, following Saint Francis of Assisi’s admonition to preach about “vice and virtue, punishment and glory.”
Compared with Saint Paul by the pope, Bernardine had a keen intuition of the needs of the time, along with solid holiness and boundless energy and joy. He accomplished all this despite having a very weak and hoarse voice, miraculously improved later because of his devotion to Mary.
When he was 20, the plague was at its height in his hometown of Siena. Sometimes as many as 20 people died in one day at the hospital. Bernardine offered to run the hospital and, with the help of other young men, nursed patients there for four months. He escaped the plague, but was so exhausted that a fever confined him for several months. He spent another year caring for a beloved aunt whose parents had died when he was a child, and at her death began to fast and pray to know God’s will for him.
At 22, he entered the Franciscan Order and was ordained two years later. For almost a dozen years he lived in solitude and prayer, but his gifts ultimately caused him to be sent to preach. He always traveled on foot, sometimes speaking for hours in one place, then doing the same in another town.
Especially known for his devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus, Bernardine devised a symbol—IHS, the first three letters of the name of Jesus in Greek—in Gothic letters on a blazing sun. This was to displace the superstitious symbols of the day, as well as the insignia of factions: for example, Guelphs and Ghibellines. The devotion spread, and the symbol began to appear in churches, homes and public buildings. Opposition arose from those who thought it a dangerous innovation. Three attempts were made to have the pope take action against him, but Bernardine’s holiness, orthodoxy, and intelligence were evidence of his faithfulness.
General of the Friars of the Strict Observance, a branch of the Franciscan Order, Bernardine strongly emphasized scholarship and further study of theology and canon law. When he started there were 300 friars in the community; when he died there were 4,000. He returned to preaching the last two years of his life, dying while traveling.
Basilica of San Bernardino
Via S. Bernardino, 67100 L'Aquila AQ, Italy
"Ricciarelli di Siena" Italian Almond Cookies
A soft sugary cookie similar to a macaron, with chewy almond and orange center.
These traditional Tuscan cookies are a perfect Christmas treat.
2 Egg Whites room temperature
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 tsp Almond Extract
2 cups Almond Meal
1 cup Caster Sugar
1 Orange Zest
1/3 cup Powdered Sugar
Preheat the oven to 300°F (150°C).
In a large bowl, add the room temperature egg whites with the vanilla extract, almond extract, and orange zest.
Whisk with an electric whisk until you get a foamy consistency. It should not be stiff like meringues but very soft foam.
Add the sugar and the almond meal and mix with a spoon until you get a paste. If crumbly, knead with your hands until the dough stays compactly together.
Dust a cutting board with powdered sugar and roll the dough into a thick cylinder, about 2 inches (5 cm) thick, then cut it into 1 inch (2.5 cm) chunks.
Flatten lightly the discs on the board, then give them an oval shape and coat them well with powdered sugar.
Set the Ricciarelli on a baking sheet, then lightly wet your fingers with water and wet the surface of each cookie (it should be just slightly wet, not drippy), then dust again with abundant icing sugar to coat them well. Tap lightly with dry fingers to smoothen the sugary surface.
Bake in the preheated oven for the first 5 minutes at 300°F (150°C), then 5 minutes at 340°F (170°C) and the last 5 minutes at 320°F (160°C). Alternatively, you can bake them only at 320°F (160°C) for 18-20 minutes.
Gently move the cookies to a cooling rack with a spatula and let them cool completely before serving.