Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, an example for our times

Source: FSSPX News


On August 20, the feast of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (1091-1153), Benedict XVI quoted this “great doctor of the Church” during the Angelus, pointing out that “his example and his teachings were proving more useful than ever, even in our time.”

“After having withdrawn from the world after a period of intense inner travail, he was elected at the age of 25, abbot of the Cistercian monastery of Clairvaux, remaining its guide for the 38 years until his death. His dedication to silence and contemplation did not prevent him from carrying out an intense apostolic activity,” explained the Sovereign Pontiff.

“He was also exemplary in his commitment to fight against his impetuous temperament, as well as his humility which enabled him to acknowledge his own limitations and shortcomings.

“The richness and the quality of his theology did not lie so much in the fact that he broke new ground,” said the pope, “but rather in putting forward the verities of the faith with such a clear and penetrating manner, that he fascinated his listener and disposed the soul to contemplation and prayer. In every one of his writings one perceives the echo of a rich interior experience, which he succeeded in transmitting to others with an astonishing capacity for persuasion.”

In the Liber de diligendo, Saint Bernard states, he continued, that “love is for him, the strongest force of the spiritual life. God, who is love, created man for love, and through love He redeems him; the salvation of all human beings, mortally wounded by original sin and overwhelmed by personal sins consists in firmly adhering to that divine love, which was fully revealed to us in Christ Crucified and Risen. In His love, God heals our will and our sick intelligence by raising them to the highest degree of union with Him, in other words to sanctity and mystical union.

From De consideration, addressed to Pope Eugene III, Benedict stressed that “the dominant theme is the importance of interior contemplation – and he said this to a Pope – an essential element of piety. It is necessary, observes the Saint, to guard against the dangers of excessive activity, whatever one’s situation and office – he says to the Pope of that time and to all the popes, and to us all – many occupations often lead to “hardness of heart”, they do no more than torment the spirit, exhaust the heart and…cause us loss of grace” (II, 3). This warning applies to all types of occupations, including those which are inherent to the government of the Church. The text which Bernard addressed on this subject to the Pontiff, his former disciple at Clairvaux, was provocative: “You see, he wrote, where all of these accursed occupations which are absorbing you, can not fail to lead you, if you continue… to abandon yourself completely to them, without keeping anything of yourself to yourself” (ibid.).

“How necessary for us also, this recall to the prime importance of prayer! May St. Bernard, who was able to reconcile the aspiration of the monk to the solitude and silence of the cloister with the urgency of important and complex missions in the service of the Church, help us to realize this primacy in our own lives”, said the Holy Father.

“Let us entrust this desire, which is not easy, to find the balance between interiority and our necessary work, to the intercession of the Virgin Mary, whom he loved from his childhood with such a tender and filial devotion, as to deserve the title of ‘Marian Doctor.’”