While the universal Church marks today's observance as an optional memorial, for those of us who are members of the Franciscan Family, today is far more special and is celebrated as obligatory. Today the Church remembers the Holy Name of Jesus, the name given to the child born of the Virgin by the angel, the name given him on the eighth day following his birth.
Devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus dates back to the earliest days of the Church. The Franciscan connection to that devotion finds its origins in the fifteenth century through the preaching of St. Bernardine of Siena.
If one travels to Siena, Italy, today, one cannot help but be impressed that the "Christogram" of IHS is to be found everywhere one looks. It is set into the stone work of most of the buildings of that city, including all of the public buildings. St. Bernardine was a great preacher in his day. At the end of his sermons, he would hold up a golden tablet that displayed the Christogram and urge his listeners to bow down in worship to the redeemer of humankind. Some objected to his method and even accused him of heresy. However, as many times as his critics dragged him before the ecclesiastical courts, he was acquitted by his judge of any heretical ideas. He became such a popular preacher that the Church desired to ordain him a bishop, an honor he declined because of his devotion to his monastic vocation and his preaching efforts. The observant branch of the Franciscan Family to which he belonged, the Zelanti, grew from a few hundred members to almost 4,000 members by the time of his death.
The Holy Name Society, a fraternal group of men in the Church, fosters a love for the name of Jesus as well as reparation for blasphemies against that name. The devout practice of a slight head bow whenever one speaks the name of Jesus is also a familiar custom of our faith. The name Jesus, spoken by the angel at the annunciation of his birth, means "Savior." Each time we hear the name, we should remember that God's love for us took flesh in the person of Jesus our Savior.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator