Born in Carpi, near Modena, Italy in 1530, Bernardine was the first child of Francisco and Elisabetta
Bellentani Realino. His father was master of Horse to the Gonzaga family. When Bernardino was sixteen, he was sent to school in Modena, and then to the University of Bologna where he studied philosophy and medicine. Ten years later, in 1556, he received doctoral degrees in canon and civil law from the same university. Finishing his studies, he was made tax collector in Alessandri and then mayor of Cassene; in both positions he was known for his kindness and his justice.
In succession, Realino served as mayor of Felizzano (near Milano), and then superintendent of the estates of a nobleman in Naples. It was in this southern city in 1556, that he met the Jesuits. In 1562, Realino was made mayor of Castelleone, and office he held for two terms. In a letter to his brother regarding this appointment, Bernardine wrote: "I have no desire for the honors of this world, but solely for the glory of God and the salvation of my soul." He strove to be "an instrument of Divine Providence," and often gave his entire salary for the care of the poor.
When he was in Naples, he frequented the Jesuit Church and made a retreat during which he experienced Our Lady inviting him to enter the Society of Jesus. On October 13, 1564, Realino entered the Jesuit novitiate in Naples, and made his profession of vows two years later. After the novitiate, he was sent to Rome to study theology. He made his profession of vows in October 1566, and was ordained on May 24 the following year. From this time on there was "a happiness and a joy about him," and a "genius" for making friends.
Four years later, in 1570, the Father General, Francis Borgia appointed Realino Master of Novices in Naples, even though he had not finished the usual course of theology studies. He was known for his study of ascetical theology, his prudence and sound judgment, and his abilities as a spiritual director. He is also described as "one of the most affable characters of his day," and as being "as approachable as a puppy"!
On May 1, 1570, Realino made his vows as a professed member of the Society of Jesus. He remained in Naples where he was known for his preaching, counseling, visiting the sick and imprisoned, giving conferences in convents and monasteries, and especially for his role as a confessor.
In 1574, Realino was named the superior of a newly opened Jesuit house and school in Lecce, where he remained for over forty years in the roles of either rector or vice-rector. In 1580, his ministry changed to spiritual ministries. When his superiors decided to move him from the city, Realino either became ill or the weather prohibited travel. He then devoted himself to spiritual rather than educational ministries visiting hospitals, jails, and slave "pens." His confessional was described as "besieged." He admitted to his provincial superior that "the confessional was his Calvary," and he described his "greatest penance" as that of "availability to people...the clamorous needs of souls."
On June 11, 1616 Father Realino developed a strong fever and lost his speech, but not his consciousness. He was anointed on June 29, and died on July 2, 1616,
Bernardine Realino was beatified on May 8, 1716 by Pope Clement XI, and canonized on June 16, 1737 by Pope Clement XII.