From Swordfighter to Saint: Bernard of Corleone

From the swashbucklers garrisoned in his hometown in Sicily, the young Philip Latini learned a dubious skill-immensely popular in the 17th century-swordsmanship.

Indeed, he acquired the reputation of being the best blade in Sicily.


But after mortally wounding his opponent after being challenged to a dual,

he knew his life must change.


ST BERNARD OF CORLEONE :  Feast day is January 12th

Born in 1605 in Corleone, Italy, St. Bernard followed the footsteps of his father and became a cobbler. But he also was enamored by the soldiers stationed nearby. From them he learned the art of fencing, or swordfighting. He was very good and considered 'the one' to beat and so he would be challenged to fights.  But one fight turned deadly. Seeking sanctuary in the Franciscan Capuchin church, where he remained for a week, he had time to take stock of his life. Conversion ensued and he decided to join the Franciscans and become a lay brother in the order. And so Philip Latini became Brother Bernard in 1632.

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The way in which Brother Bernard strove particularly to make amends for his violence towards others was in directing his violence against himself. He led a most penitential life as a Franciscan. But along with his stern self-discipline and fasting, he advanced by giant steps in his prayer life. Many spiritual gifts were reported of him as time passed: prophecies, wonders, miracles.  

Among the more unusual graces bestowed on Br. Bemard was the ability to heal animals. In a truly Franciscan spirit, he felt loving kinship with all lesser creatures. He was sad to see them in pain, for, as he said, they could not speak in order to tell human beings of their illnesses, and there were (at that time) no doctors to prescribe for them or medicines to cure them.  

Because of the reputation Bernard acquired of curing animals, owners of all sorts of animals brought them to this "supernatural veterinary".  He would usually say the Our Father over them, and then lead them three times around the cross that stood in front of the Capuchin church. "He cured them all," says a biographer.

St. Bernard cherished a special love for the Blessed Mother, and encouraged others to do the same. The Blessed Mother appeared to him and placed the Divine Child in his arms. Moreover, she gave him knowledge of the day of his death four months in advance. He died at Palermo on January 12, 1667.

His biographers stated that, attracted by the fame of his sanctity, there gathered for his burial so many people who raised their voices in praise of the deceased, that it was less a funeral cortège than a triumphal procession. Numerous miracles occurring at his grave promoted the cause of his beatification in 1767 and subsequent canonization in 2001.

st bernard 2

God our Father, you have given us St Bernard
as a wonderful example of penance and of Christian virtues.
By the power of your Spirit make us firm in faith and effective in our work.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. AMEN.

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