Saint Bernard of Clairvaux is not as well-known as he should be. He is a saint who dominated his times and era with extraordinary accomplishments. Born in 1091 to a noble family in France, he was educated well. When his mother died shortly after he turned 19, he thought at last of retiring from the world to the life of solitude and prayer. He joined the Benedictine community of Cîteaux, which was intending to return to a strict following of the Rule of St. Benedict. Later he was sent to found a monastery at Vallée d'Absinthe, renamed by Bernard "Claire Vallée," which later became "Clairvaux." Bernard became abbot and soon was founding other monasteries. His rule was so austere that his own health deteriorated, and many monks became discouraged and mournful, but by humble inspiration, Bernard was induced to lighten the burden somewhat.
Bernard was invited to guide multiple councils, starting with the Council of Troyes, where he wrote the rule of the Knights Templar. He supported the true pope, Innocent II, during a schism that arose after the death of Honorius II, traversing Europe to secure secular and religious support for the true successor of Peter. He refused the Archbishopric of Milan, preferring the cloister, and wrote numerous illustrious works that would gain him in later history the title of "Mellifluous" Doctor. Continuing to administer at councils, he put down the errors of Peter Abelard and others, founded 163 monasteries over all Western Europe, and preached the Second Crusade. He drove out demons and prophesied, acquiring many miracles to his name. Above all, St. Bernard wished to be holy, united to God through Mary; his writings on her were chief reasons for his becoming a Doctor of the Church.
In this short biography, find the tale of a man who had power and influence on more matters than most can dream of yet who took no joy in the world or pride in successes, ever longing rather to return to his cell. Here is truly a story to make you weep.
- Fr. Theodore Ratisbonne, NDS
- TAN Books
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