Thursday, October 09, 2014
By Jean M. Heimann
Today, October 9, we celebrate the feast of St. Louis Bertrand (1526-1581), who is known as the Apostle of the Americas and the patron of Novice Masters.
Louis Bertrand was born on January 1, 1526, at Valencia, Spain, to devout parents. He was a relative of St. Vincent Ferrer and was even baptized at the same baptismal font as this great saint. As a youth, he was very holy and prayed the Office of Our Lady daily. He attended different churches in order to receive the Eucharist frequently. He also visited the sick and cared for the sick in hospitals.
At age nineteen, Louis entered the Dominican Order and was ordained to the priesthood two years later. At twenty-three, he was selected to be Master of Novices, a post he held for thirty years. He led the novices in a strict regimen so that they might become faithful and zealous Dominican priests, striving for the salvation of souls. While he was firm with those whom he directed, he was also very sensitive and empathetic to their needs. He served as a wonderful example of all of the virtues to those whom he guided. He was in correspondence with St. Teresa of Avila, who had consulted him about reforming the Carmelites, with which he concurred, correctly predicting that the order would benefit from this.
When he served as Superior of Saint Anne at Albayda, he boldly denounced public scandals from the pulpit. This nearly cost him his life. A nobleman was so enraged by one of his sermons, which he believed to be directed at his own blatant scandalous behavior, that he pulled a gun on him. However, Louis prayed quietly and calmly made the Sign of the Cross. The gun pointed at him was miraculously changed into a crucifix.
In the year 1562, Louis set sail for South America, where he worked as a missionary for seven years and converted over 23,000 Native Americans in Colombia, Venezuela, and the Caribbean Islands. Louis had the gift of tongues in that he was able to speak in the language of the natives, without ever having learned it. The native people were drawn to his preaching and his charity. However, not everyone appreciated his presence there. A native priest, displaying his jealous hatred for Louis, gave him a chalice of poison at the Holy Mass. Louis made the Sign of the Cross over the lethal concoction, and serpents sprang from the chalice, thus, revealing its true contents and saving his life.
Louis had a great devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and to the holy Rosary. He asked Our Lady to hide the miraculous powers with which God had given him. Thus, it was through the recitation of the Rosary that he raised a girl to life in South America.
In 1568, Louis was ordered back to Spain. One year later, he was elected Prior of Valencia. The last two years of his life were filled with painful sufferings, yet he continued preaching. He died at Valencia on October 9, 1581. He was beatified by Pope Paul V in 1608, and was canonized by Clement X in 1671. He is the patron saint of Colombia.