It’s time to experience the joy of discovery!Let’s go on an extraordinary journey on the “Bernardine Paths”, marked by centuries of history.
The Order of Friars Minor, which has been active in Lithuania for already 550 years, has been given different names over the centuries. The Order was started by Franciscan “Observants”, i.e. friars, who aspired to return to the principles and teachings of St. Francis of Assisi and follow his rule letter for letter. Interestingly, in Lithuania and its neighbouring countries, the Franciscan “Observants” were named the Bernardines after St. Bernardine of Siena, and this name caught on with the common folk.
St. Bernardine of Siena (1380 – 1444) was an extraordinary person. He was gifted with spectacular eloquence and thus was a remarkable orator. The story goes that crowds of worshippers, which gathered wishing to listen to the brother’s unique sermons, were too big for churches, so St. Bernardine delivered many homilies in city squares. This friar minor is also known as the Apostle of Italy, because of his extensive travels through the warring lands of Italy while spreading peace and tranquillity. During his sermons, St. Bernardine used to keep a plate with a Christogram in front of him. After the end of the sermon, the plate was displayed for adoration. The adoration of the Christ’s name was one of his favourite subjects, and his love for the deprived was legendary.
St. Bernardine of Siena belonged to the strictest branch of the Franciscan Order, which believed that the rule dictated by St. Francis had to be followed in a dogmatic manner, rejecting all convenient interpretations that were introduced later on. Due to his charismatic personality, he became the leader of this newly established movement.
St. John of Capestrano, who had been a student of St. Bernardine of Sienna, founded the the “Observant” branch of the Franciscan Order in Poland in 1453. He named the first friary in Cracow on behalf of his recently canonised teacher St. Bernardine. Due to this, people started calling the brothers living in the friary the Bernardines. John of Capestrano and other brothers were fond of this name and used it later on while establishing other friaries in Poland, Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania, even though their official name was Friars Minor or the “Observants”.