Written by Barb Spies, OFS, Director of Mission Services and Pastoral Care

Do you ever wonder about how saints become patrons saints? It has to do with some aspect of the story of their lives that people might turn to them for support in those areas. St. Bernardine of Siena, a Franciscan saint whose feast day is May 20, is the patron saint of Advertising and Public Relations. So, how did it happen that a man born in 1380 is the patron of modern advertising?

Bernardine, as a young man, was devout and committed to helping those around him. At 20, he worked in a hospital with patients struck by the plague. Since this was in the early 1400s, a hospital would not be quite the same setting as modern healthcare. He offered his care in feeding and cleaning those who were ill. By the age of 22, he decided to join the Franciscan Friars. He became well known as a fierce preacher, guiding the people of Italy to repentance, returning back to God.

It wasn’t just his preacing skills that led him to being the patron of advertising and PR. Bernardine sought a way to remind people of the power of the name of Jesus. He used the first three Greek letters of Jesus’ name to make a symbol on an image of the sun. Those letters are iota, eta, and sigma, but look like IHS to us. The sun was to remind the people that Jesus is the sun that rises and is the Son of God. Bernardine would hold up this symbol when he preached and encouraged people to place this monogram on their doorposts as a reminder. We think of branding and logos today to remind people of an organization. He created a beautiful “logo” to remind people of the power of the name of Jesus.

This symbol became so popular, we still see it today used in churches and art. Later, St. Ignatius of Loyola adopted it for his Society of Jesus (The Jesuits). It’s also the symbol on the presidential seal for Siena College in Loudonville, New York, a Franciscan university. This explosion of popularity from St. Bernardine of Siena’s preaching and use of the symbol, or Christogram, explain his role as the patron of Advertising and PR.

Blessed Angela: “Speak often about the love which Christ showed us and how obliged we are to love Him.”

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