Saint of the Day – 2 July – St St Bernadino Realino SJ – Priest, Lawyer, Teacher, Apostle of Charity -(1 December 1530 in Carpi, Modena, Italy -2 July 1616 in Lecce, Italy of natural causes). Canonised on 22 June 1947 by Pope Pius XII. Patronage -Lecce, Italy (proclaimed on 15 December 1947 by Pope Pius XII). His body is incorrupt and emits a perfumed fragrance.
Bernardino Realino was born near Modena, Italy, on 1 December 1530. At university he began studying philosophy and medicine but switched to law which he thought would open greater chances for advancement and wealth. Family connections helped him become mayor of Felizzano at age 26, which also involved being a judge. He was regarded as honest by the people and was reappointed to the post. Other posts followed until he was made mayor of Castelleone.
Despite his successful career, Realino began losing interest in worldly advancement and began giving away his money to the poor. In August 1564 he met two Jesuit novices and learned that the Jesuits had only recently come to Naples. Further encounters strengthened his vocation and then he had a vision of Our Lady, who told him to enter the Jesuits. He was accepted as a novice on 13 October 1564 at the age of 34.
Realino wanted to be a brother but was told he should be ordained a priest. Only seven months after taking first vows he was ordained on 24 May 1567. It was a tribute to his maturity that the Jesuit General (St) Francis Borgia made him master of novices in Naples, although still studying theology. He also began the pastoral work which would occupy the rest of his active life. He preached and taught catechism, visited slaves on the galleys in Naples harbour and heard confessions.
In 1574 he was sent to Lecce in Apulia, where there was a plan to set up a Jesuit house and college. The local response was enthusiastic and Realino began the pastoral work which would last for 42 years: preaching, hearing confessions, counselling clergy, visiting the sick and those in prison and giving conferences to men and women religious. Several times he was instructed to move to Naples or Rome but each every time he was about to leave the city, he was prevented by some unexpected occurrence – a sudden fever or bad weather. Eventually his superiors allowed him to stay on in Lecce doing his pastoral work. In 1583 he set up a sodality for diocesan priests to nurture their spiritual life and improve their competence to hear confessions. The people showed their love for their pastor, especially during his final illness in June 1616. Crowds gathered outside the Jesuit residence and only men were allowed in to kiss his hand and devoutly touch religious objects to his body. On his death-bed, the city mayor and magistrates formally requested Fr Realino to be Lecce’s defender and protector in heaven. Unable to speak, he nodded. The distinguished lawyer who spent most of his life as a parish priest in relative seclusion died at the age of 86 with his eyes fixed on a crucifix. His last words were: “O Madonna, mia santissima” (O my Lady, my most holy one).