Thursday, August 20, 2015

Saint Bernard

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153)
Born in 1090, Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, was a French abbot and the primary builder of the reforming Cistercian monastic order. After the death of his mother, Bernard sought admission into the Cistercian order. The little community of reformed Benedictines at Cîteaux, which would have so profound an influence on Western monasticism grew rapidly. Three years later, in 1115, Bernard was sent with a band of 12 monks to found a new house at Clairvaux, and the names of Bernard and Clairvaux would soon become inseparable. Bernard became a popular preacher, promoting the devotion to the Virgin Mary. In the year 1128, Bernard assisted at the Council of Troyes, at which Bernard traced the outlines of the Rule of the Knights Templar who soon became the ideal of Christian nobility.
On the death of Pope Honorius II, a schism broke out in the Church. King Louis VI convened a national council of the French bishops, and Bernard was chosen to judge between the rival popes. Bernard devoted himself with renewed vigor to the composition of the works which would win for him the title of "Doctor of the Church". In 1139, Bernard assisted at the Second Council of the Lateran. Having previously helped end the schism within the Church, Bernard was now called upon to combat heresy.

Following the Christian defeat at the Siege of Edessa, the Pope commissioned Bernard to preach the Second Crusade. The last years of Bernard's life were saddened by the failure of the crusaders, the entire responsibility for which was thrown upon him. Bernard died at age 63 on August 20, 1153, after 40 years spent in the cloister.
He was the first Cistercian monk placed on the calendar of saints and was canonized by Pope Alexander III 18 January 1174, only 21 years after his death, a pretty fast canonization in those days. Pope Pius VIII bestowed on him the title of Doctor of the Church. He became remembered as the Mellifluous Doctor, the Honey-Sweet Doctor, for his eloquence. The Cistercians honor him as only the founders of orders are honored, because of the widespread activity which he gave to the order.