The Holy See Search

(1605 - 1667)


In the popular imagination, Bernard of Corleone is your typical marketplace troublemaker, similar to the swordsman Ludovico in Manzoni's novel. But this distorted image, spread by a certain kind of popular novel, is wide of the mark. Filippo Latino, as he was called before becoming a friar, was not like that at all.

Born at Corleone on February 6, 1605, his home was popularly known asAthe house of saints. "His father Leonardo, a skilled cobbler and leather craftsman, was so merciful to those in need that, with consummate charity, he would even bring them home to wash, clothe and feed them. His brothers and sister were also extremely virtuous. In this fertile ground the young Filippo soon learned the practice of charity and devotion to the Crucified and to Our Lady. As manager of the cobbler's shop he knew how to treat his workers well, and was not ashamed toAwander through the town in wintertime, begging alms for the poor prisoners."

His only fault, in the words of two witnesses at his beatification process, was that "he was quick to draw his sword at the slightest provocation. "This worried his parents, especially after Filippo wounded the hand of one particularly arrogant challenger. This incident, which happened in 1624 when Filippo was 19, was witnessed by many and caused an uproar. It cost the hired killer his arm, and Filippo, now nicknamed "the finest blade in Sicily, "was shaken to the core. He begged forgiveness from the wounded man, who later became his friend. And so his religious vocation matured, until on December 13, 1631, at the age of 27, in the novitiate at Caltanissetta, he was clothed in the habit of a Capuchin friar - the religious most closely associated with the ordinary people - taking the name Bernard.

He lived a simple life, moving from one friary to another in the province: Bisacquino, Bivona, Castelvetrano, Burgio, Partinico, Agrigento, Chiusa, Caltabellotta, Polizzi and perhaps also Salemi and Monreale, although it is difficult to give precise dates. We do know that he spent the last fifteen years of his life in Palermo, where he welcomed "Sister Death" on January 12, 1667. His assignment, almost exclusively, was that of cook or assistant cook, but he also cared for the sick and did a multitude of other tasks, being helpful to everyone, sharing the workload of his busy brothers and washing the clothes of the priests. Eventually he looked after all the friars' laundry. His remarkable spiritual stature is a tapestry of deeds and sayings, spiced with heroic, if not incredible, penances and mortifications.

The testimonies included in the process leading to his canonization relate the particular features of his personality. His was the gentle strength of his Sicilian homeland: "He always exhorted us to love God and do penance for our sins. " 'He was always engrossed in prayer... for him going to church was a sumptuous feast of prayer and union with God." Time, on those occasions, would disappear and he was often rapt in ecstasy. He liked to stay in church at night because - as he himself explained -  'it wasn't good to leave the Blessed Sacrament alone and he would keep him company until the other friars arrived."He found time to help the sacristan so that he could be as close as possible to the tabernacle. Contrary to the custom of the time, he would receive communion daily. In the final years of his life his superiors, seeing him overwhelmed by constant penances, freed him from all other jobs except the service of the altar. His solidarity with his fellow men took on a social dimension. In Palermo, at times of natural disaster such as earthquakes and hurricanes, he would mediate in front of the tabernacle, struggling with God, like Moses: "Easy Lord, be gentle with us! I want this grace, Lord, I want it! "And the disaster ceased, the scourge was lifted. On his deathbed, after receiving the final blessing, he joyfully kept repeating: "Let's go, let's go, "and breathed his last. It was 2 p.m.on Wednesday, January 12, 1667. One fellow friar, Br. Antonino of Partanna, who had been particularly close to him, saw him in the spirit, radiant and repeating with joy beyond words: "Paradise! Paradise! Paradise! O, blessed are the disciplines, blissful the night-watches! Blessed the penances, the self-will sacrificed! O, the blessing of fasting, and acts of obedience! How great is the blessing of religious life well lived!"