St. Bernard our Patron Saint
St. Bernard of Clairvaux
The patron saint of our parish is generally known as St. Bernard of Clairvaux. Bernard was born in Burgundy, France in the year 1090 at Fontaines-les-Dijon - the castle of the Fontaines. He was sent to the best of schools, had a great taste for literature and loved poetry. Entering college at an early age, he studied theology and Holy Scripture. After the death of his mother, he resolved to become a monk. He could have joined one of the rich and powerful monasteries of Benedictine monks, where the wealth and influence of his family would have assured him a distinguished career. Instead, he chose to enter the very strict Cistercian Order. In 1113, at the age of twenty-three, he entered the Cistercian monastery at Citeaux along with thirty young noblemen - a group that included brothers, uncles and friends.
His superiors soon noticed that Bernard had made great progress in his spiritual life; thus, in 1115, he and twelve other monks were sent to found a new monastery in what was then known as the Valley of Wormwood; eventually it became known as the Valley of Light, or Clairvaux. His aged father came also, giving up his wealth and honor for the poverty of a monk. His married sister loved wealth. She visited Bernard, and the words he spoke moved her so deeply that she later retired to a convent with her husband's consent.
Bernard was appointed Abbot at Clairvaux. He was a powerful preacher and is reported to have performed miracles, especially in healing the sick. His reputation attracted great crowds of pilgrims to Clairvaux which soon became the most important of the Cistercian monasteries.
This saintly man was gradually drawn into world affairs as church leaders came to seek his advice. A prolific writer, Bernard led much of the discussion and dialog on reforms and restructuring of the church as it passed through its first millennium. Most of St. Bernard's written records and correspondence have been lost over time, but what has survived has given historians a rich picture of everyday life in the European High Middle Ages. Ultimately he was recognized as the most influential spiritual leader of his time and was largely responsible for the rapid expansion of the Cistercian order. By 1153, the year Bernard died, there were more than 300 Cistercian monasteries, sixty-eight of which were founded directly from the monastery at Clairvaux.
In his later years he turned to his writing. His works fall into four categories: 1) letters, 2) treatises, 3) sermons, and 4) hymns. He also had a talent for music. Many of his hymns survive today and are used in both Catholic and Protestant Churches.
Bernard died in his monastery at Clairvaux in 1153, at the age of 63. He was canonized a saint by Pope Alexander III in 1174 and named a doctor of the church by Pope Pius VII in 1830. His feast day is August 20. By his life, St. Bernard showed how deeply he cared about God and God's people. We are fortunate to be under his wing.
Resource: Lives of the Saints
Rev. Hugo Hoever, S.O. Cist., Ph.D.
St. Bernard was devoted to Our Blessed Mother
Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, and sought thy intercession, was left unaided. Inspired with this confidence, I fly unto thee O Virgin of virgins, my Mother, to thee I come, before thee I stand sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate! Despise not my petitions, but, in thy mercy, hear and answer me.
Prayer for the Intercession of St. Bernard
God, You blessed Your Church with St. Bernard, a man full of zeal for Your house, radiating brightness and ardent love. Through his intercession, grant that we may be animated by the same spirit and always walk as children of light. Amen.