Today, in what many people refer to as a post-christian culture, we can still hear in dramas on television and film, characters saying “Jesus” as an expression of surprise. I can’t imagine that this is a prayer from the heart and that the person of Christ is the centre of their lives. As a youngster I remember that we used to be encouraged to bow our head every time we heard the name Jesus. This was a sign of reverence and affection.
Today we keep the feast of St Bernadine of Siena, a dynamic and captivating Franciscan preacher of the fifteenth century. He encouraged a devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus and it is said that he created the symbol of the letters HIS, the first three letters of the name of Jesus in Greek, surrounded by the rays of the sun.
The devotion spread, and the symbol began to appear in churches, homes and public buildings.This image was adopted by St Ignatius who founded the Jesuit order. St Bernadine in one of his sermons said: “The name of Jesus is the glory of preachers, because the shining splendour of that name causes his word to be proclaimed and heard. And how do you think such an immense, sudden and dazzling light of faith came into the world, if not because Jesus was preached? ………So this name must be proclaimed, that it may shine out and never be suppressed. But it must not be preached by someone with sullied mind or unclean lips, but stored up and poured out from a chosen vessel.”