Bernardine Croli was born in 1514 on November 25th. He was born with a birth mark in the form of a cross on his chest. Bernardine was serious by nature and from his earliest years spent much time in prayer. He had a great love of the poor and underprivileged.
At twelve Bernardine sought admittance to the Observant friars but was advised to wait until he matured. He was given a book on the Desert Fathers which he constantly pondered on. It was on April 1532 that he was invested by them. It was a year later that Bernardine sought permission to join the "new Order" of Franciscans called Capuchins. It was for the great Capuchin austerity that he longed. He was transferred on the Sunday within the Octave of the Epiphany in 1534.
Bernardine, the Capuchin, followed St Francis as well as he knew how. He lived mainly on bread and water, wore a worn and patched habit, wore continually a hair shirt, walked always barefoot, even through the snow, frequently beat himself severely and rolled "brother body" in nettles and thorns.
Father Bernardine always spent five or six hours in continual prayer each day, all the time wishing he could spend more.
Bernardine preached with great fervour. Although his sermons were no masterpieces, he preached the Gospel with such faith that he became quite famous for his conversions. He would spend much time before the Tabernacle in preparation for a sermon. He could not spend much time in library preparation as he would always forget what he had studied.
Bernardine was at various times elected Guardian of different friaries, Novice Master and once Minister Provincial. It is, however, as Chronicler of the Order that we are indebted to him. Bernardine wrote an account of the early Capuchin days in three volumes. Bernardine's writings form one of the most valuable and reliable sources of our knowledge regarding the origin and growth of the Capuchin Reform.
Many supernatural occurrences are attributed to Fr Bernardine. He is said to have had the gift of prophesy, to have received visions and to have worked many miracles.
Bernardine was instrumental in forming `monti frumentari' or communal grain banks from which the peasants borrowed seed grains and after harvest, would simply return the amount they had borrowed.
It was on February 7th 1594, while reciting a verse of Psalm 53 that Bernardine died. He was eighty one years old and spent 67 of them as a Capuchin. "For you have rescued me from all my distress and my eyes have seen the downfall of my foes" (Ps. 53)