Fourth Jesuit Youth Model
BLESSED BERNARD DE HOYOS, SJ
By Hedwig Lewis SJ
Bernard Francis de Hoyos, the Spanish Jesuit who was beatified on 18 April 2010 in Valladolid, was born on 21 August 1711; this year marks the tercentenary of his birth.
Bernard Francis de Hoyos, the Spanish Jesuit who was beatified on 18 April 2010 in Valladolid, had died at the young age of 24. He is being hailed as the fourth “youth-saint” of the Society of Jesus.Stanislaus Kostka, 18, was a novice; John Berchmans, 22, had just completed philosophy; Aloysius Gonzaga, 23, was in theology. Bernard, 24, was doing his tertianship, a few months after his ordination; though he was a priest, he was technically still a scholastic. In any case, Bernard’s real apostolic mission, through which he is acclaimed as the first apostle of the Sacred Heart in Spain, began during his second year in theology. And that is what marks his greatness and makes him an outstanding model for scholastics.
Bernard exemplified that anyone who cooperates with God’s Grace, who is whole-heartedly person-centred and seeks human cooperation, and who is passionately committed to a challenging vision, can cross every new frontier he encounters, expand his horizons, and “set the world on fire” with Christ’s flaming love.
Bernard was born on 21 August 1711 in Torrelobatón, Valladolid, in north-western Spain. He did his initial schooling in his native village, and then attended the Jesuit Colleges of Medina del Campo and Villagarcia de Campos. After college, he sought admission to the Society of Jesus but was told to wait a year because he was only fourteen. Then, though he had still not reached the mandatory age of fifteen, he was granted a dispensation to enter the Novitiate at Villagarcia on 11 July 1726. Bernard spent nine years of his Jesuit life in formation, doing his novitiate (1726-1728), Philosophy at Medina del Campo (1728-1731), and Theology at the College of St Ambrose in Valladolid (1731-1735). He was ordained on 2 January 1735 and had a short spell of pastoral ministry. He began his Tertianship at the College of St Ignatius in Valladolid in September 1735. He contracted typhus on 18 November and succumbed to it on 29 November 1735.
A Jesuit blogger in Lima recently posted this anecdote in the context of the new Blessed: “In October 2009, the world's lightest child was born in Göttingen (Germany). The boy weighed 275 grams, measured 27 cm and came to the world 15 weeks earlier than normal. Only six months later could he be brought home. We can not know how much Bernard weighed at birth, or if his labour was advanced. But he was so tiny that his mother, for some apparently physiological reason did not realize the due date until the pregnancy had reached an advanced stage and she delivered her child. In our time, the baby would have gone straight to the incubator. But in the early eighteenth century ... only death awaited him. However, Bernard outwitted the Grim Reaper. Nevertheless he remained all his life small in stature and weak.”
What Bernard lacked in PQ (Physical Quotient) was more than compensated by his IQ, SQ, EQ and MOF – all rolled in one! These abbreviations refer respectively to his Intelligence, Spiritual and Emotional quotients, and to his being a Man on Fire!
IQ: Bernard possessed a sharp intelligence. He sought for excellence in studies even as a boy. While attending the Jesuit school in Medina del Campo as an external student, he lodged with an aunt. He overheard a remark by some relative that there were really good prospects for education in Madrid. So, one day in early 1724, without any warning, Bernard slipped out of home for Madrid. It is amazing how this frail yet fearless 12-year-old covered the distance of 100 kilometres in just two days, riding a donkey he had hired. Fortunately, he found his uncle Tomás, a practicing lawyer in the city. Tomás was all admiration for Bernard’s quest, but returned him to his parents. They, in turn, were impressed by Bernard’s precocity and ambitions, and got him enrolled in the famed Jesuit College in Villagarcia de Campos, extolled for its quality education, culture and social etiquette. Being a bright student, when Bernard graduated from high school at the age of 14, he could write and speak Latin with ease.
Bernard gave top priority to study during his formation. He was an outstanding student and performed brilliantly in the academic field. He was keen on developing his soul and mind through extensive reading and reflection. This is evident in his journals and writings. One of his instructions, to Ignatius Enrico Osorio (1713-1778), discovered in 1948, contains 160 citations from 32 books of both the Old and New Testaments – signalling a noteworthy familiarity with the Scriptures.
His extensive knowledge gave Bernard a high level of self-confidence when it came to discussing intellectual matters. He could quote by memory from the writings of numerous well-known saints and prominent spiritual authors. Given his intelligence and studiousness, he was chosen, toward the end of his philosophy course for the most important role in the public disputation – a role he fulfilled brilliantly.
SQ: In Bernard’s time, Holy Communion and visits to the Blessed Sacrament helped one live a Christocentric life. Bernard received extraordinary graces through the Eucharistic presence.
During the novitiate Bernard was initiated into the mystical life. In the extensive account of conscience he gave to Fr Juan de Loyola, his Spiritual Director, in October 1732 he said: “I see that everything in my heart is moving towards God, drawn like iron to a magnet. It desires only God, searches only for God, and longs only for God….” Because of the clarity with which Bernard was able to perceive and describe his inner life, his Director insisted that this young man was “far more advanced than a man of his age, with more knowledge than he could have acquired from books.”
Apart from being favoured by mystical graces, heavenly visions and saintly visitations, Bernard also suffered excruciating attacks from demonic forces. As happens to those who arrive at the threshold of mystical life, he was not spared “the dark night of the soul”, through which he struggled for five months during his philosophy stage of formation. His mind was filled with images of God as a Just Judge, Who was displeased with him. Bernard became despondent. His meditation, Mass, Communion, penances… instead of assuaging his sufferings, made him feel more wretched. Bernard’s biggest harassment was in the temptations regarding impurity; he was bombarded by obscene thoughts and his reactions brought him to tears and made him gnash his teeth. Through it all, the power of Christ stayed with him and prevented him from going to extreme measures. He did not, in reality, ever say the least word or do the slightest action that would have surprised or shocked his companions during his period of the ‘dark night of the soul’.
Bernard’s mystical experiences climax to his “mystical marriage” on the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, 15 August 1730. At the time the events were happening and being recorded, no one ever suspected, least of all Bernard himself that they would be leading to his role as a premier Apostle of the Sacred Heart in Spain. The records of his spiritual experiences, which he kept for his use and to help in communicating them to his spiritual director, reveal the depth of his spirituality and how the Lord was preparing him to carry out His mission. Bernard’s journals put his visions in perspective and provide us with several insights. They help us understand the delicateness of his soul, as well as the struggles he underwent to discover their authenticity and do justice to their demands.
EQ: The image one may have of a mystic is that of a saintly recluse. Bernard was anything but that. In fact he was so obviously a normal “community man” – in relationships, in commitment to common tasks, in service to the needy – that his companions least suspected the extraordinary stirrings in his inner being, which were exposed by his spiritual director after his death. He was endearing, jovial and available. He was obedient, humble, modest, and discrete.
He was so emotionally balanced and mature that despite his young age and appearance, he was appointed ‘admonitor’ to the novices in his very first year as a novice. His companions and superiors attested after his death that Bernard was a leader and ‘bridge-builder’, through the responsibilities he held.
The ‘information’ sent to Rome in 1730 before Bernard could be admitted to Theology, stated: Good health. Very penetrating intelligence, judgment and prudence: quite admirable in one as young as he. Tenacity in overcoming difficulties, capacity for cordial relationships, qualified for all ministries, especially for preaching.
MOF: Bernard had his first mystical experience just three months into the novitiate, on 3 December 1726. “As soon as I awoke on the feast of St Francis Xavier,” he noted in his journal, “I began to entertain new and tender feelings for the Child Jesus, through whose love, the night before, my heart started being changed and set afire. On going to prayers, my heart danced with sheer joy and the Igniter of hearts fanned the flame of its love. I said to Him: Child of mine, my dearly Beloved and Spouse of my soul! Not so fiercely do I kindle and burn! I see that I know nothing about love… Mainstay my life, wound, consume and inflame this heart of mine!”
His heart beat so vehemently that after Holy Communion the rector ordered him to go out for a much-needed diversion. Bernard obeyed and endeavoured to calm his fiery love, but it abated somewhat only after a three or four hour struggle. One of his early biographers remarks: “How useless prove human means when Divine Love invades a heart!”
In a letter to his spiritual director in 1733, Bernard revealed: “On the feast of our Father St Ignatius, at the time of Holy Communion, I felt the Saint on my right hand side, and St Francis Xavier on my left. Their presence transformed my soul into a holy conflagration, which from the soul of our Holy Father was being enkindled in my heart.”
Bernard experienced the divine fire not only in times of consolation but also in dreadful periods of desolation. Referring to his ‘dark night of the soul’ he noted: “From above he hath sent fire into my bones” (Lam 1.15).
In March 1734 Bernard noted in his journal: “The divine vessel of the Sacred Heart was shown to me, converted into a fiery volcano… Then Jesus deigned to hurl from the centre of this fire of love into my heart something like a fiery flake, asserting… that this gift of His I could pay and settle the debts to His Heart and the injuries committed against it. I offered the gift to Jesus and His Heart itself , and I gathered that He was satisfied with it.”
Engulfed by this fire, and purified by it. Bernard would set about setting the world on fire according to the desires of Christ.
ON CHRIST'S MISSION
The mission of spreading devotion to the Sacred Heart entrusted to him by Christ was challenging and called for conviction, commitment and courage – and Bernard had them all. It demanded total trust in God and complete confidence in Christ – and Bernard possessed these in full measure. It required gigantic ‘feats’ – like penetrating the papacy and palaces, ecclesiastics and fellow Jesuits, yet our “David-junior”, though small in stature and ill-equipped physically, felt up to the task because he was clothed with the armour of Christ and wielded the power of grace. Bernard was a zero turned hero, a magnanimous soul, who maintained his humility, humour and humanity, through thick and thin, stillness and storm, spiritual highs and devilish lows.
In September 1731 Bernard was sent to the College of St Ambrose in Valladolid to begin his course in theology. At the end of April 1733, Bernard received a letter from his friend, Fr Augustine Cadaveraz in Bilbao, requesting him to copy and send an excerpt from Fr José de Gallifet’s book On Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus (1726) that was in the community library. Fr Gallifet, a French Jesuit, had Fr Claude La Columbière as his spiritual director during his formation, and later became a great propagator of devotion to the Sacred Heart. On 3 May, while reading the book Bernard was enlightened. For the first time he began discovering the unexplored vistas of the Sacred Heart, which, in spite of his earlier visions had no deep impact on him. He noted in his diary: “I felt in my spirit an extraordinary motion – strong, gentle, not abrupt or impetuous. I then placed myself before the Blessed Sacrament, offering myself to His Sacred Heart in order to cooperate as much as possible in propagating devotion to it.”
On 4 May 1733 Bernard received a decisive mission from Jesus: “I wish for you to spread the Devotion to My Sacred Heart throughout all of Spain.” Bernard experienced total immersion into the Heart of Christ. He notes in his journal: “From this moment, I have been submerged and absorbed by the Divine Heart. As for eating, sleeping, studying and the rest, my soul appears not to recognize anything but the Heart of its Beloved; and while I am before our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, then break loose the torrents of His choicest favours.”
On 14 May he obtained what is known as the “Great Promise” from the Sacred Heart: “I will reign in Spain with more veneration than in other places.” Bernard consecrated himself to the Sacred Heart of Jesus on 12 June 1733, using the same formula written by St Claude La Columbière fifty years earlier.
"Bernard de Hoyos's passion for the Heart of Jesus faithfully corresponds to the devotion that St Ignatius felt for Jesus poor and humble, before whom he asks that our affections be moved in order to accompany Him in each step of His life: ‘As companions with him on mission, his way is our way, so that in what we do in the world there must always be a transparency to God’ (GC35, D2, nn 14, 10),” noted Fr Adolfo Nicolás, Superior General of the Society of Jesus. on the occasion of the beatification.
“Bernard was the first among Spanish Jesuits,” according to the former postulator general Fr Paulo Molinari SJ, “to grasp intuitively the transcendent nature of the cult of the Sacred Heart as means of personal sanctification and effective apostolic tool. For him it is in substance the cult of the love of Jesus, Incarnate Word, Redeemer, which reveals in itself the love of the Most Holy Trinity loving us with a heart of flesh in virtue of the hypostatic union, and presenting the heart as a symbol of this love to animate us to imitate him and love him in return.”
With his dying breath, Bernard was heard to whisper: "Oh, how good it is to dwell in the Heart of Jesus!"
Bernard always lived with the conviction, expressed or unexpressed, that “grace builds on nature”. In order to “do good” one must “be good”. That entails laying strong foundations of values and virtues in oneself before one can set out to build a better world. Listed below are a few areas that he concentrated on for a holistic self-development.
1. Bernard considered his spiritual enrichment as an essential aspect of his personality. Therefore, he did not take it for granted but seriously applied himself to matters spiritual. Given his sound religious upbringing, he entered the novitiate of the Society of Jesus with the specific conviction of leading a life of perfection. All through formation he showed enthusiasm in his spiritual duties and remained faithful to prayer and forms of penance practiced in those days. He was a contemplative in action. The Eucharist was the fountain of grace, through which he felt spiritually and physically nourished and motivated for service.
2. Bernard believed that the true test of the genuineness of ones call to religious life is self-discipline. This is reflected in ones fidelity to duty and joyfulness in fulfilling the tasks assigned one. All through his formation, Bernard was known to have kept the rules “perfectly”. A Jesuit who lived with him five years, Fr John O’Brien, testified after Bernard’s death: “Nothing singular or extraordinary appeared in him, although he was always so completely adjusted to our rules that I ever considered him, novice, student or priest, as a living copy of them.”
3. Bernard realised that his God-given intelligence needed to be enriched so as the better to serve him in his future ministries. To begin with, he was conscientious in fulfilling the requirements of the courses of study during formation. Then, he expanded his mind through extra reading and research. He did not allow for any compromises or excuses, even though he was entrusted by a special mission by Jesus. He had his priorities right and had mastered the art of managing his time efficiently.
4. Bernard was convinced that total honesty and integrity were the marks of a genuine religious. A striking characteristic of Bernard was his complete transparency before God and his spiritual directors. He always fulfilled the obligation of giving an account of his conscience punctually and meticulously. He routinely revealed his trials and triumphs, agonies and ecstasies in the spiritual life in all honesty and sincerity of heart. This was particularly necessary since Bernard was graced with an extraordinary spiritual life of – mysticism, especially his gift of visions. Bernard responded to these divine favours graciously – but not naively as one may tend to believe. He would discern the spirits carefully, and check and counter-check them for their authenticity. There is clear indication that Bernard in no way wanted to give in to any self-delusion; but on the other hand, he was careful to comply with those graces which he considered genuine.
5. Bernard understood the value of role-models that help one look beyond oneself and provide a challenge and sense of direction in life. Bernard chose John Berchmans [1599-1612] as his model and intercessor. There was no authorized biography of Berchmans at the time, except a few notes circulating among the novices in Villagarcia, which were copied and read avidly. In order to imitate his saintly model more closely, Bernard requested Fr de Prado, the novice master, for a picture of he saint. He reinforced it with thick paper, added red paint to make it show up, and placed it on the table in his room. Fr Juan de Loyola, in his biography, called Bernard de Hoyos "a perfect imitator of John Berchmans and in turn a model himself, closer to us, and worthy of imitation." Bernard, too, lived out the Ignatian Magis to the fullest extent.
6. Bernard knew the value of having a head filled with dreams and a heart overflowing with devotion, but also of having his feet firmly planted on earth. He was a dynamic realist who would make his dreams come true – with divine help, of course, but also with human cooperation. He valued human relationships and team-work as an integral part to his self-growth and for effectiveness in his ministry. Bernard was aware that working together called for leadership, the power of perseverance, tenacity and optimism in the face of failures, opposition and difficulties.
COMPETENCE AND CREATIVITY
Bernard was a man on a mission who went about it with professional expertise. He had complete trust in Divine Providence and the assurance of Christ Himself for the success of the mission.
Bernard did not feel that he should wait till he was ordained a priest in order to carry out his apostolic mission. His confidence came from his prayer life and from his intimacy with the Lord. Not being a priest had its limitations in his time and age. So Bernard acted as an instrument in the Lord’s hand to mobilize others to do what was beyond his reach.
It is amazing how this young scholastic, three centuries ago, without any training in managerial skills, accomplished the mission entrusted to him by Christ. By modern standards, he was a ‘professional’. Had he been alive today he would have utilized all the resources available – the internet, social networks, all modern languages...
Aware that the task of spreading devotion to the Sacred Heart far and wide was a gigantic one, and realizing that his main duty was to pursue his theological studies seriously, he believed that over and above the divine graces he received, he needed human cooperation. Putting his leadership skills to the fore, he formed a “network” of like-minded Jesuits and competent preachers, which came to be known as the “Group of Five". They were deeply spiritual men, representing different ministries. The team chalked out a concrete seven-pronged action plan with specific targets:
1. Rally the support of the Jesuits, especially those of the most important ones and those in highest authority in the province, toward this almost new devotion.
2. Publish a book providing “the essence and the soundness of this devotion”.
3. Distribute “holy pictures” to inspire many of the simple folk who were not literate.
4. Prepare a simple novena to the Sacred Heart, since novenas were very popular forms of devotion at the time.
5. Enthuse the popular missionaries, who travelled across the cities and towns in Spain preaching to the masses, to commit themselves to speak in their missions "of piety and devotion to the Sacred Heart”.
6. Urge the Spanish Bishops to officially petition the Holy Father, that the use of the liturgy of the Mass and Office of the Sacred Heart, as it existed in some countries, be extended to Spain.
7. Appeal to the Spanish royalty, in particular King Philip V, to beg the Pope to grant the petition made by the bishops, not only to Spain but also to its colonies in Latin America and the Philippines.
Implementation of the Action Plan
The team-members mutually helped to achieve their targets. Here we shall single out Bernard’s leadership role and personal contribution.
Given his pleasant nature, seriousness of purpose, and charism for relationships, Bernard did something which he conjectured would be “much more difficult than convincing St Theresa”: he won the hearts of the members of the Jesuit Province of Castile over to his cause. In the biography written three years after Bernard’s death, Fr Juan de Loyola noted: “I consider it as something prodigious that so young a religious has been able to set on fire, with so sacred an enthusiasm for a new and unknown devotion, men who were learned, prudent, constituted in authority, the best brains of the country. Among the Jesuits there were provincials, rectors, masters of novices, preachers, missionaries – in short, the eminent Fathers of the Province of Castile. But since the Sacred Heart Himself set fire to the words and the writings of our young Apostle, human prudence and wisdom could not resist him.”
Fr Juan de Loyola was entrusted with the task of writing a short but substantial study on the Sacred Heart. Bernard scrutinized the manuscript, revised it, raised funds, and did all in his power, against odds, to have The Hidden Treasure published on 21 October 1734. It soon became a ‘bestseller’, and was published from eight cities in Spain. He brought the Sodality of the Sacred Heart to Spain, and was instrumental in establishing it in many cities. Also, with the help of Fr de Loyola, he prepared a novena to the Sacred Heart. Six months after Bernard’s ordination, the first public novena to the Sacred Heart was held with great solemnity at the college of St Ambrose in Valladolid. The first edition of the novena was published and was immediately out of print. In order to reach the unlettered people of Spain, Bernard ordered from Rome two moulds of the picture of the Sacred Heart as found in the frontispiece of Fr de Gallifet’s book: Jesus’ Heart pierced by the lance, crowned with thorns and surmounted by a cross. He printed thousands of picture-cards, which were easy to distribute. In a short period, each person from every rank of society throughout the land possessed this illustration of the Sacred Heart.
Through Bernard’s intervention, in 1735 the Church hierarchy in Spain together with His Majesty King Philip V, appealed to Pope Benedict XIII for the feast, office and Mass of the Sacred Heart for all the churches of the country. Unfortunately, because of the expulsion of the Jesuits from Spain in the following decades, their request was conceded to the Spanish people nearly a century later, on 7 December 1815.
There are several lessons we can draw from Bernard’s life:
- It is essential to have a vision-cum-mission in the apostolic life.
- Passion and the Ignatian Magis provide fuel for the realization of our vision-mission.
- The Eucharist and constant prayer nourish a heart that is Christ-centred and person-oriented.
- Complete transparency with our spiritual director/confessor/confidante is necessary to discern our vocation within our vocation.
- Maintaining a daily journal of graces received, emotions experienced and limitations perceived keeps us in constant awareness of God's presence and helps us monitor our spiritual progress.
- Using all the resources available, particularly human resources, particularly human ones (team work) enables us to work effectively and efficiently toward building God’s kingdom.
- Upholding the conviction that God is larger than our heart, and his love enlarges our hearts, motivates us to go beyond our human frontiers. Our hands will stretch out to grasp what our hearts place within our reach.
- Mysticism is a special grace. Visions and apparitions are aspects of great mysticism enjoyed by a chosen few. But we are all called to “everyday mysticism” – to being contemplatives in action – by living God-centred lives.
We can draw inspiration from Bld Bernard de Hoyos. He is a model for youth and youthful hearts exemplifying how one can convert mission into passion, love into action, and holiness into wholeness. He enkindled countless hearts with flames from the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Hedwig Lewis, SJ
St Xavier's College
Ahmedabad 380 009
Updated April 2011