He was born on November 7, 1831 in Rome to Gian Tommaso and Teresa Silvestrelli, residents of the Piazza della Minerva and baptized with the name Cesare Pietro that same day. His mother died when he was 15 years old. He did his initial education at the Jesuit Roman College and thereafter continued his studies at the Oratory of Caravita. He was attracted to the life of the Passionists and entered the novitiate of the congregation at St. Joseph Monastery in Monte Argentario, Tuscany, on March 25, 1854, at the age of 22. At that time he received the religious habit and was given the name Aloysius of the Sacred Heart of Mary on April 7. A month later, however, he was forced to leave the novitiate due to ill health, but continued living with the Passionists in another house in the same town while he did theological studies.
In the course of his studies he was ordained a priest on December 22, 1855. He then decided to re-apply to enter the congregation and was accepted. The following April, he again entered the novitiate, this time at Morrovalle, where he re-took the habit and the new name of Brother Bernard Mary of Jesus. Here he was the classmate of another novice, Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows, who was himself canonized in 1920. Father Bernard Mary made his final profession of vows on April 28, 1857. Thereafter, he pursued studies for preaching. When they were completed, he was assigned, first to the office of Director of Students at Morrovalle (1860-1864) and then as Master of novices at the Passionist monastery of Scala Santa, adjacent to the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome (1864-1869).
He was then appointed Rector of the community. It was here that, on September 19, 1870, Pope Pius IX visited the Sacred Steps from which the monastery took its name. The Pope was making his last visit to the sacred sites of Rome before the city was besieged by the invading Italian army. Father Bernard supported the Pope by the arm as they both climbed the steps, weeping bitterly.
In 1876 Father Bernard Mary was elected as the first Provincial Consultor of the Roman province, later he became Vice Provincial Superior. In the General Chapter of the Passionist Congregation of 1878 he was elected Superior General of the Congregation. As Superior General, Father Bernard Mary worked hard to reconcile rival factions in the Congregation. He founded new houses abroad, especially in Latin America, as well as advancing the Bulgarian mission and reformed the regulations of the Congregation, being particularly firm in the conviction that a return to the original spirit and Rule of the founder, Saint Paul of the Cross, could be the only formula for reviving the spirit of the Congregation.
He was re-elected Superior General in 1884 and resigned the post in 1889. In 1893 a vision of Saint Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows convinced Father Bernard Mary to attend the General Chapter, and he was then once more elected Superior General, a post to which he was re-elected again in 1899 and 1905. He established an international house of studies for Passionist students at SS John and Paul in Rome and visited every Passionist province in the world. He resigned again in 1905 but was elected ‘honorary General’ for life. In 1911, he retired to the Passionist community at Moricone and died there in the December of that year. He was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1988.