20 August 2009

Feast of St. Bernard, August 20

Bernard of Clairvauxas depicted
in a medieval illuminated
manuscript(Note: initial letter B for Bernard)

On St. Bernard of Clairveax, (1091 - 1153)

His parents were Tescelin, lord of Fontaines, and Aleth of Montbard, both belonging to the highest nobility of Burgundy. Bernard, the third of a family of seven children, six of whom were sons, was educated with particular care, because, while yet unborn, a devout man had foretold his great destiny. At the age of nine years, Bernard was sent to a much renowned school at Chatillon-sur-Seine, kept by the secular canons of Saint-Vorles. He had a great taste for literature and devoted himself for some time to poetry. His success in his studies won the admiration of his masters, and his growth in virtue was no less marked. Bernard's great desire was to excel in literature in order to take up the study of Sacred Scripture, which later on became, as it were, his own tongue. "Piety was his all," says Bossuet. He had a special devotion to the Blessed Virgin, and there is no one who speaks more sublimely of the Queen of Heaven. Bernard was scarcely nineteen years of age when his mother died. During his youth, he did not escape trying temptations, but his virtue triumphed over them, in many instances in a heroic manner, and from this time he thought of retiring from the world and living a life of solitude and prayer.

ST. BERNARD, one of the most illustrious Christian teachers and representatives of monasticism in the Middle Ages, was born at Fontaines, near Dijon, in Burgundy, in 1091. The son of a knight and vassal of the duke of Burgundy who perished in the first crusade, Bernard may have felt for a time the temptations of a military career, but the influence of a pious mother and his own inclinations towards a life of meditation and study led him to the cloister. While still a youth he is said to have been "marvellously cogitative" ("mire cogitativus," St Bern. Op., vol. ii. col. 1063), and the ascendancy of his mind and character were soon shown. He joined the small monastery of Citeaux in 1113 when twenty-two years of age, and such were the effects of his own devotion and eloquent enthusiasm in commending a religious life, that he drew after him not only his two younger brothers, but also his two elder ones, Guido and Gerard, both of whom had naturally taken to soldiering, and the elder of whom was married and had children. The effect of his preaching is said to have been that " mothers hid their sons, wives their husbands, companions their friends," lest they should be drawn away by his persuasive earnestness.**

(**Note from Blogger/Editor: He persuaded four brother, and uncle, and other friends -- a total of thirty-one men -- to join him and pursue a sever religious life."
Also of interest:
+He was friends with St. Malachy of Armagh
+Was present at the tenth general council in Rome, the second of the Lateran
+His advice was looked upon with respect even by the popes
+He was universally called "Doctor Mellifluous," or the "Honeysweet Doctor" because of his devotions
+His writing, especially De Diligendo Deo, one of the outstanding medieval mytical works, shaped mysticism in the Middle Ages.
+His hundreds of sermons, his treatise De consideratione, letters, reflections on Scripture and his deep devotion to Mary and Jesus greatly influenced Christian spiritualism.
+He is considered the last of the Fathers of the Church.)

Some quotes from St. Bernard of Clairveax:
Hail, O bleeding Head and wounded, With a crown of thorns surrounded, Buffeted, and bruised and battered, Smote with reed by striking shattered, Face with spittle vilely smeared! Hail, whose visage sweet and comely, Marred by fouling stains and homely, Changed as to its blooming color, All now turned to deathly pallor, Making heavenly hosts affeared! (Abraham Coles' translation)

Who loves me will love my dog also. [Fr., Que me amat, amet et canem meum.] (Note from Blogger/Editor: Dad, that one was especially for you!)

He who prays and labours lifts his heart to God with his hands. [Lat., Qui orat laborat, cor levat ad Deum cum manibus.]

Hell is full of good wishes or desires. [Fr., L'enfer est plein de bonnes volontes ou desirs.] Source: Archbishop Trench called it the "queen of all proverbs"

I know by myself how incomprehensible God is, seeing I cannot comprehend the parts of my own being.

"My burden is light," said the blessed Redeemer, a light burden indeed, which carries him that bears it. I have looked through all nature for a resemblance of this, and seem to find a shadow of it in the wings of a bird, which are indeed borne by the creature, and yet support her flight towards heaven.

Nothing can work me damage except myself. The harm that I sustain I carry about with me, and never am a real sufferer but by my own fault.

Prayer is a virtue that prevaileth against all temptations.

Religion brought forth riches, and the daughter devoured the mother. [Lat., Religio peperit divitias et filia devoravit matrem.]

Slander is a poison which extinguishes charity, both in the slanderer and in the persons who listen to it.

The peacemakers shall be called the sons of God, who came to make peace between God and man. What then shall the sowers of discord be called, but the children of the devil? And what must they look for but their father's portion?

The tears of penitents are the wine of angels.

And perhaps the Editor's favorite...

"O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary, pray for us, O Holy Mother of God, that we may be worthy of the promises of Christ." --- the end of the Hail Mary as it is today, given to us from the great Father of the Church.


O Loving Jesus, meek Lamb of God, I miserable sinner, salute and worship the most Sacred Wound of Thy Shoulder on which Thou didst bear Thy heavy Cross, which so tore Thy flesh and laid bare Thy Bones as to inflict on Thee an anguish greater than any other wound of Thy Most Blessed Body. I adore Thee, O Jesus most sorrowful; I praise and glorify Thee, and give Thee thanks for this most sacred and painful Wound, beseeching Thee by that exceeding pain, and by the crushing burden of Thy heavy Cross to be merciful to me, a sinner, to forgive me all my mortal and venial sins, and to lead me on towards Heaven along the Way of Thy Cross. Amen.

Imprimatur: Thomas D. Beven, Bishop of Springfield

Sancte Bernarde, ora pro nobis!