St. Bernard of Clairvaux – Feast Day August 20

st bernard

“If Christ is with us, who is against us? You can fight with confidence where you are sure of victory. With Christ and for Christ victory is certain.” ~ St. Bernard de Clairvaux

St. Bernard was born in 1090 in the family castle of Fontaines, in Burgundy, near Dijon, France. In 1112 he entered a poor, crumbling monastery called Citeaux. The Cistercian monks at the monastery followed the Rule of Saint Benedict and lived a stricter life of prayer, silence, and penance. He also convinced thirty-one other men (including a few of his brothers, an uncle and friends) to enter the monastery with him. As they were leaving home they said to their little brother, Nivard: “Good-bye little Nivard. You will now have all the lands and property for yourself.” But Nivard replied: “What! How can all of you go to heaven and leave me here on earth? Do you call that fair?” When Nivard was older he too joined his brothers in the monastery.

Within three years, Citeaux was flourishing and Bernard was sent to start a new monastery in the Valley of Light which in French is called “Clairvaux”. Bernard became abbot of the new monastery and was there for the rest of his life. As abbot, he received visitors and letters from people asking for advice and help. He took the time and effort to answer each request. He also wrote beautiful spiritual books.

St. Bernard had a great devotion to the Blessed Mother. It is said that when he passed her statue he would often greet her with a “Hail Mary.” And one day, the Blessed Mother returned his greeting: “Hail Bernard!”

In 1130, newly elected Pope Innocent II faced the popularity of an antipope, Anacletus. The latter’s claim to be pope threatened to split the Church. Bernard asked the government and Church leaders to support the true pope. Anacletus lost his power and Innocent II became the official bishop of Rome.

Due to the schisms which arose during this time, he traveled around Europe restoring peace and unity. Because of his ability to settle disputes, he was called to various countries to give advice on affairs of the Church and government.

Bernard was chosen as an official preacher for the Second Crusade and many joined the cause for Christ because of him.

St. Bernard is also a Doctor of the Church. He wrote many treatises and sermons on the love of God and a commentary on the Song of Songs.

More than anything Bernard just wanted to be a monk and be close to God.


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