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The Catholic Defender: Bernardino Realino

Pius XII named him as the patron saint for Lecce on 15 December 1947. His remains are preserved in Lecce in the Chiesa del Gesù.

Lecce, Apulia, Italy, July 2, 1616. Realino studied at nearby Modena and at the University of Bologna, where he was made a doctor in utroque jure in 1556. Because of an argument during which he had wounded an adversary, Bernardino was forced to make his career elsewhere, and he went in 1556 to Milan.

In Naples a Jesuit preacher's sermon so moved him that he sought out the priest and had him hear his confession;

the priest noted his inclination to the religious life and – with some other Jesuit priests – invited him in August 1564 to make a week-long spiritual retreat with them, to discern his call. He joined the Jesuits on 13 October 1564 (Alfonso Salmeron welcomed him into the order) and began his period of the novitiate.

Realino was ordained to the priesthood on 24 May 1567; he made his vows in October 1566.

The governor, Cardinal Cristofero madruzzo, appointed him to the first of several minor mayoralties and fiscal posts. In May 1564 the Marquis of Pescara brought Realino to Naples to supervise some of his holdings. He was admitted into the Society of Jesus by Alphonso Salmerón and made his novitiate at the Jesuit college in Naples.

In 1567 he was ordained and shortly afterward was appointed master of novices by (St.) Francis borgia, general of the Jesuits. In 1574 Realino was assigned to Lecce. Here he remained for 42 years, founding a college and building a noble baroque church. Direction of souls soon became his chief occupation, and his winning charity and compassionate skill in the confessional earned him a reputation for sanctity. A sodality for priests, which he inaugurated, seems to have been the first of its kind under Jesuit auspices.

Numerous miraculous cures and prophecies were attributed to him, and several visions of the Blessed Virgin and of Jesus crucified. The Bollandists refer to him as notae sanctitatis thaumaturgus. On his deathbed, at the petition of the mayor and council of Lecce, he agreed to be the city's protector in heaven.

He was beatified by Leo XIII and canonized June 22, 1947, by Pius XII. In his youth Bernardino was a prolific writer, mainly on the classics, and wrote verses even in the last years of his life.

At 21 he had published a commentary on a poem of Catullus, In nuptias Pelei et Thetidis catullianas commentarius (Bologna 1551). Although on becoming a Jesuit he destroyed all the copies he could find, at least 22 survive in the great libraries of the world.

Feast: July 2 (Jesuits).


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