Blessed Bernardo Francisco de Hoyos y de Seña (1711-1735) was an 18th-century Spanish priest who wrote vividly of his mystical marriage to Jesus. This vision of two men in holy matrimony has inspired members of the LGBTQ community to consider Bernardo the patron saint of same-sex marriage.
The Mystical Marriage
Bernardo was frail all of his life, but was renowned for his fervent devotion, likening the love of God to a fire within him. While very young, Bernardo felt he was called to serve God as a priest. He felt it was his special mission to spread devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus everywhere, especially his native Spain. Despite his frailty and youth, he became a Jesuit priest at the age of 24 (he was granted a special dispensation because he was technically too young), eleven months before he died of typhus.
Bernardo reported having visions of saints, angels, and God. At the age of 18, he had a vision of marrying Jesus in a ceremony much like a human wedding. He described it this way:
Always holding my right hand, the Lord had me occupy the empty throne; then He fitted on my finger a gold ring…. “May this ring be an earnest of our love. You are Mine, and I am yours. You may call yourself and sign Bernardo de Jesus, thus, as I said to my spouse, Santa Teresa, you are Bernardo de Jesus and I am Jesus de Bernardo. My honor is yours; your honor is Mine. Consider My glory that of your Spouse; I will consider yours, that of My spouse. All Mine is yours, and all yours is Mine. What I am by nature you share by grace. You and I are one!”
(quoted from “The Visions of Bernard Francis De Hoyos, S.J.” by Henri Bechard, S.J.)
Bernardo spent nine years in the Jesuit formation process and was ordained in January 1735. His pastoral ministry was cut short later that same year when he died of typhus on Nov. 29, 1735. Some call him a “boy saint” because he only lived to be 24. His dying words indicate that he felt the presence of his Spouse Jesus at the end. Bernardo’s last words were, “Oh, how good it is to dwell in the Heart of Jesus!”
After his death, Bernardo’s reputation for holiness continued to grow. His beatification ceremony was held in April 2010 in the northwestern Spanish province of Valladolid, where Bernardo spent his entire life. The location of his remains is unknown. His feast day is November 29.
Precedent: John of the Cross and “La Noche Oscura”
Bernardo’s marriage to Jesus is part of the sensual-spiritual tradition of Spanish mystics. Saint Teresa of Avila had a vision of a golden arrow being thrust into her abdomen by a handsome male angel, an experience that made her swoon in ecstasy. Her contemporary, John of the Cross, wrote a poem, “La Noche Oscura” (“The Dark Night”), in which his soul is a lovesick woman who sneaks out of her house in order to meet with her lover, Jesus.
While not as erotically charged as Teresa’s vision, and somewhat less transgressive than John’s poem (Bernardo does not slip out of his house to secretly meet his Lord), Bernardo’s vision is more transgressive than either Teresa’s vision or John’s poem in that he does not obliquely refer to his feminized soul, but rather to himself in the masculine, a factor in his status as an icon in the LGBTQ community for same-sex marriage.