Pray with Today's Saint

St. Bernard of Clairvaux

8/20/2017

St. Bernard of Clairvaux had words sweet as honey, and he used them to reinvigorate monasteries where men and women gave their lives to God in prayer.

He was born in 1090 in France and excelled in his education as a child. As a youth, he was well-loved by many—he was witty, attractive, and the depth of his character shone. Gradually, the idea formed in his mind that he was to leave the world for life as a monk. A community of monks had recently formed a monastery nearby and lived a strict life together. Bernard wondered if he might be called to join them.

One day, filled with anxiety about this decision, he went into a church and prayed that God would direct him to discover and follow God’s will. He received the firm resolution to enter the monastery. His many friends tried to dissuade him, but in conversations with him, they suddenly discovered a desire to join him in giving their lives to prayer—even those who had never considered religious life before. Because of his influence, 31 men in all followed him into the monastery. His eloquent appeals were irresistible.

Bernard entered the monastery wanting to disappear and be forgotten so as to only attend to God. After a few years, the abbot, seeing his extraordinary abilities, asked him to found another monastery with a dozen other monks. His holiness and witness encouraged others to join, and soon 130 lived in the monastery in a valley that came to be known as Clairvaux.

Healings and miracles began to be ascribed to him, including the restoration of the power of speech to a converted nobleman who was dying so that he could properly confess his sins. Bernard was sought after for his wisdom—princes and popes asked for his counsel in their affairs, and he struggled to meet the needs of those around him and still maintain a healthy prayer life, which he most desired. He never refused a challenge.

He was known for his preaching, especially his commentary on the Song of Songs. Bernard’s Clairvaux community spawned many more monasteries—nearly 70— ranging as far as Ireland.

Bernard died in 1153 and has been declared a doctor of the Church, a title given to more than 35 saints who are known for elucidating the faith by their words or example. St. Bernard was given the title Doctor Mellifluus—the “honey-sweet doctor”—for his eloquence. He is the patron saint of beekeepers and candlemakers and is depicted in stained glass in the Dillon Hall chapel (top image). The library of Moreau Seminary also depicts St. Bernard in stained glass, along with the symbol of a honey-producing beehive. His relics rest in the reliquary chapel in the Basilica.

St. Bernard, the honey-sweet doctor, you convinced 31 of your friends to enter the monastery with you--pray for us!