Among the Cistercians
A tender and burning love for the Holy Name of Jesus found expression in the lyrical preaching of Saint Bernard and the other twelfth century Cistercian Fathers. In the medieval Cistercian pharmacy of souls, the Name of Jesus was the miracle medicine: the antidote for coldness of heart, bitterness, sadness, fear, lust, greed, vengeance, and every manner of spiritual ill. Today’s Office includes a hymn long attributed to Saint Bernard: Iesu, Dulcis Memoria.
In the thirteenth century, the sweetness of the Name of Jesus inebriated Saint Gertrude and the other Helfta mystics. The itinerant preaching of the Friars, both Franciscan and Dominican, introduced devotion to the Sacred Name to the hearts and homes of lay Christians great and small. The Archconfraternity of the Holy Name, known in the United States as the Holy Name Society, grew out of the labours of Saint Bernardino of Siena and Saint John of Vercelli, both ardent apostles of the Name of Jesus.
My favourite representative of devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus is the delightfully eccentric and utterly incandescent Richard Rolle, a mystic of fourteenth century England. Richard Rolle associated the Name of Jesus with three things: calor, heat; dulcor, sweetness; and canor, song. Listen to his teaching:
If you will be well with God, and have grace to rule your life,
and come to the joy of love:
this name Jesus, fasten it so fast in your heart
that it come never out of your thought.
And when you speak to him, and through custom say, “Jesus,”
it shall be in your ear, joy;
in your mouth; honey;
and in your heart, melody:
for men shall think joy to hear that name be named,
sweetness to speak it, mirth, and song to think it.
If you think the name “Jesus” continually, and hold it firmly,
it purges your sin, and kindles your heart;
it clarifies your soul, it removes anger and does away slowness.
It wounds in love and fulfills charity.
It chases the devil, and puts out dread.
It opens heaven, and makes a contemplative man.
Have Jesus in mind, for that puts all vices and phantoms out from the lover.
Into Modern Times
The spirituals of the Grand Siècle’s mystical invasion — Bérulle, Olier, Marie de l’Incarnation and a multitude of others — were enamoured of the Sacred Name of Jesus. Practices and devotions proliferated in honour of the Holy Name. Across the Channel, persecuted Irish Catholics and English recusants sustained their faith by repeating the invocation: Ihesu, Ihesu, Ihesu, esto mihi Jhesus, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, be to me a Jesus.” At the Carmel of Tours in the nineteenth century, Sister Marie de Saint-Pierre and her lay collaborator, Monsieur Dupont, joined the Name of Jesus to the Holy Face in a popular movement of reparation and adoration that continues into the present day.
No Other Name
In every generation the Holy Spirit has whispered the adorable Name of Jesus to the Churches, inspiring new expressions of what remains unchanged from age to age, the confession of Saint Peter in the Acts of the Apostles: “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other Name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Ac 4:12).