Saturday, August 20, 2005
St. Bernard of Clairvaux

Memorial (1969 Calendar): August 20
Double (1955 Calendar): August 20

Today the Church remembers St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153), abbot and Doctor of the Church, who was canonized, 21 years after his death. He is referred to as the second founder of the Cistercians, the Mellifluous Doctor, the Apostle of the Crusades, the miracle-worker, the reconciler of kings, the leader of peoples, and the counselor of popes. In 1830, he was given the title of Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius VIII.

He was born in 1090, the third son of a noble Burgundian family. At an early age he was sent to college at Chatillon. He studied Holy Scripture and Theology. St. Bernard, at the age of 22, entered the monastery of Citeaux (where the Cistercian order began) following the death of his mother and fearing the ways of the world. He convinced 25 other youths in the noble class as well as four his brothers to follow him. His father and a fifth brother later followed. St. Stephen, the abbot at Citeaux, after seeing the great progress of Bernard in the spiritual life, sent him with twelve monks to found a new monastery. St. Bernard would found the famous Abbey of Clairvaux. St. Bernard became abbot in 1115; he founded numerous other monasteries too. St. Bernard dedicated his work, De Consideratione, to his disciple, Bernard of Pisa, who later became Pope Eugene III. Pope Eugene III later asked St. Bernard to preach the second Crusade, so St. Bernard traveled France and Germany preaching. After the failure of the crusade, some people turned on St. Bernard. St. Bernard countered by saying that the knights failed because of their sinfulness.

St. Bernard's influence on the princes, clergy, and people of his time was remarkable. He was an advisor to King Louis the Fat and King Louis the Young. St. Bernard attended the Second Lateran Council and both fought Albigensianism and helped to end the schism of anti-Pope Anacletus II. He was also endowed with the gift of miracles. He died on August 20, 1153. St. Bernard was the first Cistercian monk placed on the calendar of saints. He was canonized just 21 years after his death by Pope Alexander III. In 1830 Pope Pius VIII declared him a Doctor of the Church.

Traditional Matins Reading:

Bernard was born of a distinguished family at Fontaines in Burgundy. As a youth, on account of his great beauty he was much Bought after by women, but could never be shaken in his resolution of observing chastity. To escape these temptations of the devil, he, at twenty-two years of age, determined to enter the monastery of Citeaux, the first house of the Cistercian Order, then famous for sanctity. When his brothers learnt Bernard’s design, they did their best to deter him from it; but he, more eloquent and more successful, won them and many others to his opinion; so that together with him thirty young men embraced the Cistercian Rule. As a monk he was so given to fasting, that whenever he had to take food he seemed to be undergoing torture. He applied himself in a wonderful manner to prayer and watching, and was a great lover of Christian poverty; thus he led a heavenly life on earth, free from all anxiety or desire of perishable goods.

The virtues of humility, mercy, and kindness shone conspicuously in his character. He devoted himself so earnestly to contemplation, that he seemed hardly to use his senses except to do acts of charity, and in these he was remarkable for his prudence. While thus occupied he refused the bishoprics of Genoa, Milan, and others, which were offered to him, declaring that he was unworthy of so great an office. He afterwards became Abbot of Clairvaux, and built monasteries in many places, wherein the excellent rules and discipline of Bernard long flourished. When the monastery of SS. Vincent and Anastasius of Rome was restored by Pope Innocent II, St. Bernard appointed as Abbot the future Sovereign Pontiff, Eugenius III; to whom he also sent his book 'De Considera tione.'

He wrote many other works which clearly show that his doctrine was more the gift of God than the result of his own labours. On account of his great reputation for virtue, the greatest princes begged him to act as arbiter in their disputes, and he went several times into Italy for this purpose, and for arranging ecclesiastical affairs. He was of great assistance to the Supreme Pontiff Innocent II in putting down the schism of Peter de Leone, both at the courts of the emperor and of King Henry of England, and at a Council held at Pisa. At length, being sixty-three years old, he fell asleep in the Lord. He was famous for miracles, and Pope Alexander III placed him among the saints. Pope Pius VIII, with the advice of the Sacred Congregation of Rites, declared St. Bernard a Doctor of the universal Church, and commanded all to recite the Mass and Office of a Doctor on his feast. He also granted a plenary indulgence yearly for ever, to all who visit churches of the Cistercian Order on this day.


“In dangers, in doubts, in difficulties, think of Mary, call upon Mary. Let not her name depart from your lips, never suffer it to leave your heart. And that you may more surely obtain the assistance of her prayer, neglect not to walk in her footsteps. With her for guide, you shall never go astray; while invoking her, you shall never lose heart; so long as she is in your mind, you are safe from deception; while she holds your hand, you cannot fall; under her protection you have nothing to fear; if she walks before you, you shall not grow weary; if she shows you favor, you shall reach the goal.”

Doctor Mellifluus:
The "Doctor Mellifluus," "the last of the Fathers, but certainly not inferior to the earlier ones,"[1] was remarkable for such qualities of nature and of mind, and so enriched by God with heavenly gifts, that in the changing and often stormy times in which he lived, he seemed to dominate by his holiness, wisdom, and most prudent counsel. Wherefore, he has been highly praised, not only by the sovereign Pontiffs and writers of the Catholic Church, but also, and not infrequently, by heretics. Thus, when in the midst of universal jubilation, Our predecessor, Alexander III, of happy memory, inscribed him among the canonized saints, he paid reverent tribute when he wrote: "We have passed in review the holy and venerable life of this same blessed man, not only in himself a shining example of holiness and religion, but also shone forth in the whole Church of God because of his faith and of his fruitful influence in the house of God by word and example; since he taught the precepts of our holy religion even to foreign and barbarian nations, and so recalled a countless multitude of sinners . . . to the right path of the spiritual life."[2] "He was," as Cardinal Baronius writes, "a truly apostolic man, nay, a genuine apostle sent by God, mighty in work and word, everywhere and in all things adding luster to his apostolate through the signs that followed, so that he was in nothing inferior to the great apostles, . . . and should be called . . . at one and the same time an adornment and a mainstay of the Catholic Church."[3]


O God, Who didst give blessed Bernard to Thy people as a minister of eternal salvation: grant, we beseech Thee, that we, who have had him for our teacher on earth, may deserve to have him for our advocate in heaven. Through our Lord.

Prayer Source: 1962 Roman Catholic Daily Missal

3 comment(s):

del_button August 20, 2005 at 4:50 PM
Matthew said...

You believe by taking a crucifix in your hands and kneeling down in adoration before the Eucharist and know that only God matters; He can do all things.

"Seek ye first the Kingdom and its righteousness and all things will be granted unto thee."

del_button September 16, 2020 at 9:59 PM
suebiscuit said...

It has been 15 years since this was written and I wonder how you are and will pray for you tonight.

del_button September 17, 2020 at 5:42 AM
Matthew said...

Thank you kindly for the prayers!

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