lundi 20 août 2012

Saint BERNARD de CLAIRVAUX, abbé, fondateur et Docteur de l'Église



Saint Bernard de Clairvaux

Abbé, Docteur de l’Église (+1153)

A quoi pouvait rêver dans l'éclat de sa jeunesse le fils de Tescelin, chevalier du duc de Bourgogne, et de dame Aleth de Montbard, si bonne chrétienne? de chasses ou de tournois? de chants de guerre ou de galantes conquêtes? En tous cas, certainement pas de vie monastique comme il en fera le choix à l'âge de vingt-trois ans. D'autant qu'il entraînait avec lui une trentaine de jeunes en quête d'absolu... Dès 1115, après trois années de vie monastique à Citeaux, Bernard est envoyé à Clairvaux pour y fonder l'abbaye dont il restera père-abbé jusqu'à sa mort. Mais loin de rester cloîtré il parcourt les routes d'Europe devenant, comme on a pu l'écrire, «la conscience de l'Église de son temps». Il vient plusieurs fois à Paris, à Saint Pierre de Montmartre, à la chapelle du Martyrium, à la chapelle Saint Aignan où il vient prier souvent devant la statue de la Vierge qui se trouve maintenant à Notre-Dame de Paris. Sa correspondance abondante avec des princes, des frères moines ou des jeunes gens qui requièrent son conseil ne l'empêche pas de se consacrer à la contemplation tout autant qu'à l'action directe dans la société de son temps. Infatigable fondateur, on le voit sur sa mule, traînant sur les routes d'Europe sa santé délabrée et son enthousiasme spirituel. Sa réforme monastique l'oppose à l'Ordre de Cluny dont il jugeait l'interprétation de la règle de saint Benoît trop accommodante. A sa mort, en 1153, ce sont trois cent quarante-trois abbayes cisterciennes qui auront surgi du sol européen.

A lire: Le sens de la permanence du peuple juif pour saint Bernard - Abbaye de Cîteaux, Joël Regnard, ocso.

St Bernard vint dans notre région en provenance de l'abbaye de Cîteaux. Lassé de la richesse de cette dernière, il s'installa avec quelques frères moines dans des lieux retirés tels que Loc-Dieu, Sylvanès, Bonneval, Bonnecombe, Aubrac. (diocèse de Rodez en Aveyron - deux mille ans d'histoire)

"les cisterciens, en essor sous l'impulsion de Bernard de Clairvaux, s'implantent à Clermont et à Bellebranche (1152) puis à Fontaine-Daniel (1205)" (Les abbayes médiévales: essor et déclin de la vie monastique - diocèse de Laval)

- vidéo de la webTV de la CEF: Bernard de Clairvaux (KTO, la foi prise au mot)

Au cours de l'audience générale, le 21 octobre 2009, le Pape a évoqué la figure de Bernard de Clairvaux (1090-1153), considéré comme le dernier Père de l'Église car il relança et rénova la théologie des Pères des premiers siècles. Né en Bourgogne, il entra à vingt ans au monastère de Citeaux, et le troisième abbé, saint Etienne Harding, l'envoya fonder en 1115 celui de Clairvaux, dont il devint l'abbé. Il "y introduisit une vie sobre et mesurée à tout point de vue, nourriture, habillement, bâtiments, tournée également vers l'assistance aux pauvres". Ce fut le succès de Clairvaux, dont la communauté ne cessa de grandir et d'essaimer. "Bernard entretint une vaste correspondance et composa de nombreux sermons et traités. A partir de 1130, il s'intéressa aux graves problèmes qui affectaient l'Église et la papauté. Il combattit aussi l'hérésie cathare dont les fidèles dépréciaient le Créateur en méprisant la matière et le corps. Il condamna la montée de l'anti-sémitisme et défendit les juifs".

Benoît XVI a ensuite indiqué que les aspects majeurs de la doctrine de saint Bernard regardaient Jésus et Marie. "S'il n'apporta pas d'orientations nouvelles à la recherche théologique, il s'est révélé être un théologien contemplatif et mystique" pour qui "la connaissance de Dieu est une expérience profondément personnelle du Christ et de son amour". Ceci est valable pour tout chrétien car la foi est avant tout recherche de l'amitié de Jésus. Bernard ne doutait pas non plus que l'on parvient à Jésus par Marie. Ainsi souligna-t-il "la place privilégiée de la Vierge dans l'économie du salut, due à la participation de la Mère au sacrifice du Fils". Les réflexions de saint Bernard, a ajouté le Saint-Père, "interpellent justement, aujourd'hui encore, théologiens et croyants. Trop souvent on entend résoudre par la seule force de la raison les questions fondamentales sur Dieu, l'homme et le monde. En se fondant sur la Bible et les Pères, Bernard montre que sans une foi profonde, alimentée par la prière et la contemplation... toute réflexion sur les mystères de Dieu risque de n'être qu'un simple exercice intellectuel sans la moindre crédibilité. La théologie conduit à la science des saints, à leurs intuitions des mystères et à leur sagesse, don de l'Esprit, référence de toute pensée théologique... au final, le modèle le plus authentique du théologien et de l'évangélisateur est l'apôtre Jean, qui appuya sa tête sur le cœur du Maître".  (source: VIS 091021 410)

Mémoire de saint Bernard, abbé et docteur de l'Église. Né en Bourgogne, il entra à vingt-deux ans, avec trente compagnons, au monastère de Cîteaux, fonda ensuite, sur le territoire de Langres, le monastère de Clairvaux, dont il fut le premier abbé, dirigeant ses moines, avec sagesse et par son exemple, sur le chemin de la perfection. Il parcourut l'Europe pour rétablir la paix et l'unité et fut pour l'Église entière une lumière par ses écrits et ses conseils. Il mourut, épuisé, dans son monastère en 1153.

Martyrologe romain


Saint Bernard

Docteur de l'Église

(1091-1153)

Saint Bernard, le prodige de son siècle, naquit au château de Fontaines, près de Dijon, d'une famille distinguée par sa noblesse et par sa piété, et fut, dès sa naissance, consacré au Seigneur par sa mère, qui avait eu en songe le pressentiment de sa sainteté future. Une nuit de Noël, Bernard, tout jeune encore, assistait à la Messe de Noël; il s'endormit, et, pendant son sommeil, il vit clairement sous ses yeux la scène ineffable de Bethléem, et contempla Jésus entre les bras de Marie.

A dix-neuf ans, malgré les instances de sa famille, il obéit à l'appel de Dieu, qui le voulait dans l'Ordre de Citeaux; mais il n'y entra pas seul; il décida six de ses frères et vingt-quatre autres gentilshommes à le suivre. L'exemple de cette illustre jeunesse et l'accroissement de ferveur qui en résulta pour le couvent suscitèrent tant d'autres vocations, qu'on se vit obligé de faire de nouveaux établissements. Bernard fut le chef de la colonie qu'on envoya fonder à Clairvaux un monastère qui devint célèbre et fut la source de cent soixante fondations, du vivant même du Saint.

Chaque jour, pour animer sa ferveur, il avait sur les lèvres ces mots: "Bernard, qu'es-tu venu faire ici?" Il y répondait à chaque fois par des élans nouveaux. Il réprimait ses sens au point qu'il semblait n'être plus de la terre; voyant, il ne regardait point, entendant, il n'écoutait point; goûtant, il ne savourait point. C'est ainsi qu'après avoir passé un an dans la chambre des novices, il ne savait si le plafond était lambrissé ou non; côtoyant un lac, il ne s'en aperçut même pas; un jour, il but de l'huile pour de l'eau, sans se douter de rien.

Bernard avait laissé, au château de sa famille, Nivard, le plus jeune de ses frères: "Adieu, cher petit frère, lui avait-il dit; nous t'abandonnons tout notre héritage. – Oui, je comprends, avait répondu l'enfant, vous prenez le Ciel et vous me laissez la terre; le partage n'est pas juste." Plus tard, Nivard vint avec son vieux père rejoindre Bernard au monastère de Clairvaux.

Le Saint n'avait point étudié dans le monde; mais l'école de l'oraison suffit à faire de lui un grand Docteur, admirable par son éloquence, par la science et la suavité de ses écrits. Il fut le conseiller des évêques, l'ami des Papes, l'oracle de son temps. Mais sa principale gloire, entre tant d'autres, semble être sa dévotion incomparable envers la très Sainte Vierge.

Abbé L. Jaud, Vie des Saints pour tous les jours de l'année, Tours, Mame, 1950

SOURCE : http://magnificat.ca/cal/fr/saints/saint_bernard.html




BENOÎT XVI

AUDIENCE GÉNÉRALE

Mercredi 21 octobre 2009

Saint Bernard


Chers frères et sœurs,

Aujourd'hui je voudrais parler de saint Bernard de Clairvaux, appelé le dernier des Pères de l'Eglise, car au XII siècle, il a encore une fois souligné et rendue présente la grande théologie des pères. Nous ne connaissons pas en détail les années de son enfance; nous savons cependant qu'il naquit en 1090 à Fontaines en France, dans une famille nombreuse et assez aisée. Dans son adolescence, il se consacra à l'étude de ce que l'on appelle les arts libéraux - en particulier de la grammaire, de la rhétorique et de la dialectique - à l'école des chanoines de l'église de Saint-Vorles, à Châtillon-sur-Seine et il mûrit lentement la décision d'entrer dans la vie religieuse. Vers vingt ans, il entra à Cîteaux, une fondation monastique nouvelle, plus souple par rapport aux anciens et vénérables monastères de l'époque et, dans le même temps, plus rigoureuse dans la pratique des conseils évangéliques. Quelques années plus tard, en 1115, Bernard fut envoyé par saint Etienne Harding, troisième abbé de Cîteaux, pour fonder le monastère de Clairvaux. C'est là que le jeune abbé (il n'avait que vingt-cinq ans) put affiner sa propre conception de la vie monastique, et s'engager à la traduire dans la pratique. En regardant la discipline des autres monastères, Bernard rappela avec fermeté la nécessité d'une vie sobre et mesurée, à table comme dans l'habillement et dans les édifices monastiques, recommandant de soutenir et de prendre soin des pauvres. Entre temps, la communauté de Clairvaux devenait toujours plus nombreuse et multipliait ses fondations.

Au cours de ces mêmes années, avant 1130, Bernard commença une longue correspondance avec de nombreuses personnes, aussi bien importantes que de conditions sociales modestes. Aux multiples Lettres de cette période, il faut ajouter les nombreux Sermons, ainsi que les Sentences et les Traités. C'est toujours à cette époque que remonte la grande amitié de Bernard avec Guillaume, abbé de Saint-Thierry, et avec Guillaume de Champeaux, des figures parmi les plus importantes du xii siècle. A partir de 1130, il commença à s'occuper de nombreuses et graves questions du Saint-Siège et de l'Eglise. C'est pour cette raison qu'il dut sortir toujours plus souvent de son monastère, et parfois hors de France. Il fonda également quelques monastères féminins, et engagea une vive correspondance avec Pierre le Vénérable, abbé de Cluny, dont j'ai parlé mercredi dernier. Il dirigea surtout ses écrits polémiques contre Abélard, le grand penseur qui a lancé une nouvelle manière de faire de la théologie en introduisant en particulier la méthode dialectique-philosophique dans la construction de la pensée théologique. Un autre front sur lequel Bernard a lutté était l'hérésie des Cathares, qui méprisaient la matière et le corps humain, méprisant en conséquence le Créateur. En revanche, il sentit le devoir de prendre la défense des juifs, en condamnant les vagues d'antisémitisme toujours plus diffuses. C'est pour ce dernier aspect de son action apostolique que, quelques dizaines d'années plus tard, Ephraïm, rabbin de Bonn, adressa un vibrant hommage à Bernard. Au cours de cette même période, le saint abbé rédigea ses œuvres les plus fameuses, comme les très célèbres Sermons sur le Cantique des Cantiques. Au cours des dernières années de sa vie - sa mort survint en 1153 - Bernard dut limiter les voyages, sans pourtant les interrompre complètement. Il en profita pour revoir définitivement l'ensemble des Lettres, des Sermons, et des Traités. Un ouvrage assez singulier, qu'il termina précisément en cette période, en 1145, quand un de ses élèves Bernardo Pignatelli, fut élu Pape sous le nom d'Eugène III, mérite d'être mentionné. En cette circonstance, Bernard, en qualité de Père spirituel, écrivit à son fils spirituel le texte De Consideratione, qui contient un enseignement en vue d'être un bon Pape. Dans ce livre, qui demeure une lecture intéressante pour les Papes de tous les temps, Bernard n'indique pas seulement comment bien faire le Pape, mais présente également une profonde vision des mystères de l'Eglise et du mystère du Christ, qui se résout, à la fin, dans la contemplation du mystère de Dieu un et trine: "On devrait encore poursuivre la recherche de ce Dieu, qui n'est pas encore assez recherché", écrit le saint abbé: "mais on peut peut-être mieux le chercher et le trouver plus facilement avec la prière qu'avec la discussion. Nous mettons alors ici un terme au livre, mais non à la recherche" (xiv, 32: PL 182, 808), à être en chemin vers Dieu.

Je voudrais à présent m'arrêter sur deux aspects centraux de la riche doctrine de Bernard: elles concernent Jésus Christ et la Très Sainte Vierge Marie, sa Mère. Sa sollicitude à l'égard de la participation intime et vitale du chrétien à l'amour de Dieu en Jésus Christ n'apporte pas d'orientations nouvelles dans le statut scientifique de la théologie. Mais, de manière plus décidée que jamais, l'abbé de Clairvaux configure le théologien au contemplatif et au mystique. Seul Jésus - insiste Bernard face aux raisonnements dialectiques complexes de son temps - seul Jésus est "miel à la bouche, cantique à l'oreille, joie dans le cœur (mel in ore, in aure melos, in corde iubilum)". C'est précisément de là que vient le titre, que lui attribue la tradition, de Doctor mellifluus: sa louange de Jésus Christ, en effet, "coule comme le miel". Dans les batailles exténuantes entre nominalistes et réalistes - deux courants philosophiques de l'époque - dans ces batailles, l'Abbé de Clairvaux ne se lasse pas de répéter qu'il n'y a qu'un nom qui compte, celui de Jésus le Nazaréen. "Aride est toute nourriture de l'âme", confesse-t-il, "si elle n'est pas baignée de cette huile; insipide, si elle n'est pas agrémentée de ce sel. Ce que tu écris n'a aucun goût pour moi, si je n'y ai pas lu Jésus". Et il conclut: "Lorsque tu discutes ou que tu parles, rien n'a de saveur pour moi, si je n'ai pas entendu résonner le nom de Jésus" (Sermones in Cantica Canticorum xv, 6: PL 183, 847). En effet, pour Bernard, la véritable connaissance de Dieu consiste dans l'expérience personnelle et profonde de Jésus Christ et de son amour. Et cela, chers frères et sœurs, vaut pour chaque chrétien: la foi est avant tout une rencontre personnelle, intime avec Jésus, et doit faire l'expérience de sa proximité, de son amitié, de son amour, et ce n'est qu'ainsi que l'on apprend à le connaître toujours plus, à l'aimer et le suivre toujours plus. Que cela puisse advenir pour chacun de nous!

Dans un autre célèbre Sermon le dimanche entre l'octave de l'Assomption, le saint Abbé décrit en termes passionnés l'intime participation de Marie au sacrifice rédempteur du Fils. "O sainte Mère, - s'exclame-t-il - vraiment, une épée a transpercé ton âme!... La violence de la douleur a transpercé à tel point ton âme que nous pouvons t'appeler à juste titre plus que martyr, car en toi, la participation à la passion du Fils dépassa de loin dans l'intensité les souffrances physiques du martyre" (14: PL 183-437-438). Bernard n'a aucun doute: "per Mariam ad Iesum", à travers Marie, nous sommes conduits à Jésus. Il atteste avec clarté l'obéissance de Marie à Jésus, selon les fondements de la mariologie traditionnelle. Mais le corps du Sermon documente également la place privilégiée de la Vierge dans l'économie de salut, à la suite de la participation très particulière de la Mère (compassio) au sacrifice du Fils. Ce n'est pas par hasard qu'un siècle et demi après la mort de Bernard, Dante Alighieri, dans le dernier cantique de la Divine Comédie, placera sur les lèvres du "Doctor mellifluus" la sublime prière à Marie: "Vierge Mère, fille de ton Fils, / humble et élevée plus qu'aucune autre créature / terme fixe d'un éternel conseil,..." (Paradis 33, vv. 1ss).

Ces réflexions, caractéristiques d'un amoureux de Jésus et de Marie comme saint Bernard, interpellent aujourd'hui encore de façon salutaire non seulement les théologiens, mais tous les croyants. On prétend parfois résoudre les questions fondamentales sur Dieu, sur l'homme et sur le monde à travers les seules forces de la raison. Saint Bernard, au contraire, solidement ancré dans la Bible, et dans les Pères de l'Eglise, nous rappelle que sans une profonde foi en Dieu alimentée par la prière et par la contemplation, par un rapport intime avec le Seigneur, nos réflexions sur les mystères divins risquent de devenir un vain exercice intellectuel, et perdent leur crédibilité. La théologie renvoie à la "science des saints", à leur intuition des mystères du Dieu vivant, à leur sagesse, don de l'Esprit Saint, qui deviennent un point de référence de la pensée théologique. Avec Bernard de Clairvaux, nous aussi nous devons reconnaître que l'homme cherche mieux et trouve plus facilement Dieu "avec la prière qu'avec la discussion". A la fin, la figure la plus authentique du théologien et de toute évangélisation demeure celle de l'apôtre Jean, qui a appuyé sa tête sur le cœur du Maître.

Je voudrais conclure ces réflexions sur saint Bernard par les invocations à Marie, que nous lisons dans une belle homélie. "Dans les dangers, les difficultés, les incertitudes - dit-il - pense à Marie, invoque Marie. Qu'elle ne se détache jamais de tes lèvres, qu'elle ne se détache jamais de ton cœur; et afin que tu puisses obtenir l'aide de sa prière, n'oublie jamais l'exemple de sa vie. Si tu la suis, tu ne te tromperas pas de chemin; si tu la pries, tu ne désespéreras pas; si tu penses à elle, tu ne peux pas te tromper. Si elle te soutient, tu ne tombes pas; si elle te protège, tu n'as rien à craindre; si elle te guide, tu ne te fatigues pas; si elle t'est propice, tu arriveras à destination..." (Hom. II super "Missus est", 17: PL 183, 70-71).

* * *

Je salue cordialement les pèlerins de langue française, particulièrement les jeunes d’Alsace et de Normandie ainsi que les servants de messe des unités pastorales Notre-Dame et Sainte-Claire du canton de Fribourg. Que l’enseignement de saint Bernard vous aide à découvrir toujours plus en Marie la Mère qui protège de toute crainte et qui nous guide vers son divin Fils. Que Dieu vous bénisse !

© Copyright 2009 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

SOURCE : http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/audiences/2009/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20091021_fr.html


Philippe Quantin, Saint Bernard écrivant, Huile sur toile, musée des beaux-arts de Dijon
- provient de la chapelle du collège des Gaudrans de Dijon. 
Saisie révolutionnaire, au musée en 1799. INV. CA 443


     BENOÎT XVI

 AUDIENCE GÉNÉRALE

  Mercredi 4 novembre 2009


       Confrontation de deux modèles théologiques: Bernard et Abélard


·                        Chers frères et sœurs,

     Dans la dernière catéchèse, j'ai présenté les caractéristiques principales de la théologie monastique et de la théologie scolastique du xii siècle, que nous pourrions appeler, d'une certaine manière, respectivement "théologie du cœur" et "théologie de la raison". Entre les représentants de chacun de ces courants théologiques s'est développé un vaste débat, parfois animé, représenté symboliquement par la controverse entre saint Bernard de Clairvaux et Abélard.

     Pour comprendre cette confrontation entre les deux grands maîtres, il est bon de rappeler que la théologie est la recherche d'une compréhension rationnelle, dans la mesure du possible, des mystères de la Révélation chrétienne, auxquels on croit dans la foi:  fides quaerens intellectum - la foi cherche l'intelligibilité - pour reprendre une définition traditionnelle, concise et efficace. Or, tandis que saint Bernard, typique représentant de la théologie monastique, met l'accent sur la première partie de la définition, c'est-à-dire sur la fides - la foi, Abélard, qui est un scolastique, insiste sur la deuxième partie, c'est-à-dire sur l'intellectus, sur la compréhension au moyen de la raison. Pour Bernard, la foi elle-même est dotée d'une intime certitude, fondée sur le témoignage de l'Ecriture et sur l'enseignement des Pères de l'Eglise. En outre, la foi est renforcée par le témoignage des saints et par l'inspiration de l'Esprit Saint dans l'âme des croyants. Dans les cas de doute et d'ambiguïté, la foi est protégée et illuminée par l'exercice du Magistère ecclésial. Ainsi, Bernard a des difficultés à être d'accord avec Abélard, et plus généralement avec ceux qui soumettaient les vérités de la foi à l'examen critique de la raison; un examen qui comportait, à son avis, un grave danger, c'est-à-dire l'intellectualisme, la relativisation de la vérité, la remise en question des vérités mêmes de la foi. Dans cette façon de procéder, Bernard voyait un élan audacieux poussé jusqu'à l'absence de scrupules, fruit de l'orgueil de l'intelligence humaine, qui prétend "capturer" le mystère de Dieu. Dans l'une de ses lettres, empli de douleur, il écrit:  "L'esprit humain s'empare de tout, et ne laisse plus rien à la foi. Il affronte ce qui est au-dessus de lui, il scrute ce qui lui est supérieur, fait irruption dans le monde de Dieu, altère les mystères de la foi, au lieu de les illuminer; il n'ouvre pas ce qui est fermé et scellé, mais le déracine, et ce qu'il considère impossible à parcourir par lui-même, il le considère comme nul et refuse d'y croire" (Epistola CLXXXVIII, 1; PL 182, I, 353).

        Pour Bernard, la théologie a un unique but:  celui de promouvoir l'expérience vivante et intime de Dieu. La théologie est alors une aide pour aimer toujours plus et toujours mieux le Seigneur, comme le dit le titre du traité sur le Devoir d'aimer Dieu (De diligendo Deo). Sur ce chemin, il existe différentes étapes, que Bernard décrit de façon approfondie, jusqu'au bout, lorsque l'âme du croyant s'enivre aux sommets de l'amour. L'âme humaine peut atteindre déjà sur terre cette union mystique avec le Verbe divin, union que le Doctor Mellifluus décrit comme des "noces spirituelles". Le Verbe divin la visite, élimine ses dernières résistances, l'illumine, l'enflamme et la transforme. Dans une telle union mystique, elle jouit d'une grande sérénité et douceur, et chante à son Epoux un hymne de joie. Comme je l'ai rappelé dans la catéchèse consacrée à la vie et à la doctrine de saint Bernard, la théologie pour lui ne peut que se nourrir de la prière contemplative, en d'autres termes de l'union affective du cœur et de l'esprit avec Dieu.

       Abélard, qui est par ailleurs précisément celui qui a introduit le terme de "théologie" au sens où nous l'entendons aujourd'hui, se place en revanche dans une perspective différente. Né en Bretagne, en France, ce célèbre maître du xii siècle était doué d'une intelligence très vive et l'étude était sa vocation. Il s'occupa d'abord de philosophie, puis appliqua les résultats obtenus dans cette discipline à la théologie, dont il fut un maître dans la ville la plus cultivée de l'époque, Paris, et par la suite dans les monastères où il vécut. C'était un brillant orateur:  ses leçons étaient suivies par de véritables foules d'étudiants. Un esprit religieux, mais une personnalité inquiète, son existence fut riche de coups de théâtre:  il contesta ses maîtres, eut un enfant d'une femme cultivée et intelligente, Eloïse. Il entra souvent en polémique avec ses collègues théologiens, il subit aussi des condamnations ecclésiastiques, bien qu'il mourût en pleine communion avec l'Eglise, à l'autorité de laquelle il se soumit avec un esprit de foi. C'est précisément saint Bernard qui contribua à la condamnation de certaines doctrines d'Abélard lors du synode provincial de Sens en 1140, et qui sollicita également l'intervention du Pape Innocent II. L'abbé de Clairvaux contestait, comme nous l'avons rappelé, la méthode trop intellectualiste d'Abélard, qui, à ses yeux, réduisait la foi à une simple opinion détachée de la vérité révélée. Les craintes de Bernard n'étaient pas infondées et elles étaient partagées, du reste, également par d'autres grands penseurs de l'époque. En effet, un recours excessif à la philosophie rendit dangereusement fragile la doctrine trinitaire d'Abélard, et par conséquent, son idée de Dieu. Dans le domaine moral, son enseignement n'était pas dépourvu d'ambiguïtés:  il insistait pour considérer l'intention du sujet comme l'unique source pour décrire la bonté ou la méchanceté des actes moraux, en négligeant ainsi la signification et la valeur morale objectives des actions:  un subjectivisme dangereux. C'est là - nous le savons bien - un aspect très actuel pour notre époque, où la culture apparaît souvent marquée par une tendance croissante au relativisme éthique:  seul le moi décide ce qui serait bon pour moi, en ce moment. Quoi qu'il en soit, il ne faut pas non plus oublier les grands mérites d'Abélard, qui eut de nombreux disciples et contribua de manière décisive au développement de la théologie scolastique, destinée à s'exprimer de manière plus mûre et féconde au siècle suivant. Pas plus qu'il ne faut sous-évaluer certaines de ses intuitions, comme par exemple lorsqu'il affirmait que, dans les traditions religieuses non chrétiennes, il y a déjà une préparation à l'accueil du Christ, Verbe divin.

      Que pouvons-nous apprendre, aujourd'hui, de la confrontation, aux tons souvent enflammés, entre Bernard et Abélard, et, en général, entre la théologie monastique et la théologie scolastique? Je crois tout d'abord que cette confrontation montre l'utilité et la nécessité d'une saine discussion théologique dans l'Eglise, surtout lorsque les questions débattues n'ont pas été définies par le Magistère, qui reste, cependant, un point de référence inéluctable. Saint Bernard, mais également Abélard lui-même, en reconnurent toujours sans hésitation l'autorité. En outre, les condamnations que ce dernier subit nous rappellent que dans le domaine théologique doit exister un équilibre entre ce que nous pouvons appeler les principes architectoniques qui nous sont donnés par la Révélation et qui conservent donc toujours l'importance prioritaire, et les principes interprétatifs suggérés par la philosophie, c'est-à-dire par la raison, et qui ont une fonction importante mais uniquement instrumentale. Quand cet équilibre entre l'architecture et les instruments d'interprétation fait défaut, la réflexion théologique risque d'être entachée par des erreurs, et c'est alors au Magistère que revient l'exercice de ce service nécessaire à la vérité, qui lui est propre. En outre, il faut souligner que, parmi les motivations qui poussèrent Bernard à "se ranger" contre Abélard et à solliciter l'intervention du Magistère, il y eut également la préoccupation de sauvegarder les croyants simples et humbles, qui doivent être défendus lorsqu'ils risquent d'être confondus ou égarés par des opinions trop personnelles et par des argumentations théologiques anticonformistes, qui pourraient mettre leur foi en péril.

   Je voudrais enfin rappeler que la confrontation théologique entre Bernard et Abélard se conclut par une pleine réconciliation entre les deux hommes, grâce à la médiation d'un ami commun, l'abbé de Cluny, Pierre le Vénérable, dont j'ai parlé dans l'une des catéchèses précédentes. Abélard montra de l'humilité en reconnaissant ses erreurs, Bernard fit preuve d'une grande bienveillance. Chez tous les deux prévalut ce qui doit vraiment tenir à cœur lorsque naît une controverse théologique, c'est-à-dire sauvegarder la foi de l'Eglise et faire triompher la vérité dans la charité. Que ce soit aujourd'hui aussi l'attitude avec laquelle on se confronte avec l'Eglise, en ayant toujours comme objectif la recherche de la vérité.

       * * *

Je suis heureux de saluer les pèlerins de langue française, venant notamment de France, de Suisse et de Belgique. Que votre pèlerinage à Rome soit une occasion pour approfondir votre foi afin de donner une place centrale à la personne du Christ dans votre vie. Avec ma Bénédiction apostolique!

    © Copyright 2009 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


20 août: Saint Bernard

JACQUES GAUTHIER

De 1973 à 1977, j'étais novice à l'abbaye cistercienne d'Oka, près de Montréal. C'est là que j'ai découvert saint Bernard et la spiritualité cistercienne. Figure importante de l’Occident chrétien, Bernard de Clairvaux demeure actuel aujourd’hui. Sa doctrine, comme ses actes, reflète les inspirations d’une nature mystique et contemplative, prompte à s’irriter contre tout ce qui peut éloigner de Dieu. Celui qui a donné le véritable envol à l’Ordre cistercien ne dissocie jamais le discours de l’expérience, la théologie de la spiritualité. Pour certains, il est le dernier des Pères de l’Église par sa connaissance amoureuse de la Bible, de la liturgie et de la tradition.

L’aventure cistercienne

Bernard de Clairvaux est né en 1090 dans une famille noble, au château de Fontaine, près de Dijon. Son père, Tescelin, était le seigneur de Fontaine et chevalier du duc de Bourgogne. Sa mère, dame Aleth de Montbard, sera vénérée comme bienheureuse. Ils eurent de nombreux enfants. À la mort de sa mère en 1112, Bernard entre avec trente compagnons, frères et cousins, à l’abbaye de Citeaux, fondée en 1098 par saint Robert. Le monastère était dirigé par saint Étienne Harding.

Après quinze années de dur labeur à construire le monastère, il n’y avait qu’une poignée de moines, et plusieurs doutaient de plus en plus du bien-fondé de leur mission : revenir à la pureté de la Règle de saint Benoît. Le nouveau monastère avait besoin de jeunes hommes en santé qui délaisseraient les fêtes, les joutes et les guerres pour affronter le désert de Cîteaux. Aussi est-ce avec grand soulagement que l’abbé Étienne voit arriver Bernard et ses amis. Son père et ses autres frères le suivront plus tard.

En 1115, Bernard est chargé de fonder l’abbaye de Clairvaux, la claire vallée. Il y restera abbé jusqu’à sa mort. Assoiffé de contemplation, il sera pourtant appelé à parcourir les chemins de l’Europe. Au concile de Troyes, il reconnaît l’Ordre des Templiers et rédige leur Règle de Vie.

Un guerrier spirituel

À partir de 1130, Bernard règle les conflits qui existent dans la papauté, ralliant le roi de France et l’empereur d’Allemagne à la cause de l’unité de l’Église. Homme de vérité, il s’oppose au théologien Abélard, l’amant d’Héloïse, et obtient sa condamnation au concile de Sens, en 1140. Il conseille le pape Eugène III, ancien moine de Clairvaux, qui lui demande de prêcher la seconde croisade. Sa voix est si forte à Vézelay qu’on l’entend très loin dans les champs. À Noël 1146, il prêche à Spire. Il intervient à Mayence pour empêcher les massacres de juifs par les fanatiques. On le consulte de partout.

Durant ce temps, de nouvelles abbayes cisterciennes surgissent un peu partout en Europe. Celui qu’on appelle le second fondateur de l’Ordre cistercien meurt en 1153. Il laisse derrière lui plus de 160 moines à Clairvaux, tandis que la nouvelle famille cistercienne compte près de 350 abbayes. Grand meneur d’âmes, animateur de la vie spirituelle, conseiller des évêques, gloire du XIIe siècle, Bernard est canonisé en 1173 par le pape Alexandre III, puis déclaré docteur de l’Église par Pie VIII en 1830. L’oraison du jour de sa fête, le 20 août, résume bien la place déterminante qu’il occupa dans l’Église et le zèle qui le dévorait : « Seigneur, tu as voulu que saint Bernard, rempli d’amour pour ton Église, soit dans ta maison la lampe qui brûle et qui éclaire; accorde-nous, par son intercession, la même ferveur de l’esprit, afin de vivre comme des fils de la lumière. »

La connaissance amoureuse de Dieu

Saint Bernard a non seulement vécu intensément, il a aussi beaucoup écrit. Ce fin lettré a une plume alerte qui suit le mouvement de son cœur aimanté au Christ et à Marie, sa Dame qu’il aime beaucoup. Vrai chercheur de Dieu, il se livre à une connaissance amoureuse de Dieu, qu’il traduit dans une prose superbe. Le traité de l’amour de Dieu et ses quatre-vingt-six Sermons sur le Cantique des cantiques, chant nuptial où il décrit l’union mystique de l’âme-épouse avec le Verbe-époux, demeurent des œuvres d’une grande beauté littéraire et d’une profondeur spirituelle où transparaît son désir de Dieu.

Ce désir caractérise la nature humaine et grandit avec l’alternance de présence et d’absence de l’Époux dans l’âme et dans l’Église. Il décrit à merveille ce cache-cache divin dans sa somme de théologie spirituelle que sont ses Sermons sur le Cantique des cantiques. Pour Bernard, influencé par saint Augustin, « l’amour est à soi-même son mérite et sa récompense ». Il écrit : « La raison d’aimer Dieu, c’est Dieu même; la mesure de l’aimer, c’est de l’aimer sans mesure. »

Le saint moine montre que l’être humain est par nature capable de s’unir à Dieu. L’unique moyen pour y arriver est l’amour, ce qui implique une connaissance de soi-même et de Dieu. Il écrit dans son Traité de l’amour de Dieu : « Mon Dieu, mon soutien, je vous aimerai pour tout ce que vous m’avez donné, avec ma mesure qui, certes, ne correspond pas à celle qui vous est due en justice, mais qui, cependant, n’est pas au-dessous de ce que je peux. »

Le troubadour de Notre Dame

L’enseignement de saint Bernard aura une grande postérité dans l’Église. Sa mystique nuptiale inspirera la vie carmélitaine. Sa vie d’oraison, axée sur la méditation des mystères de Jésus, aura une influence sur les franciscains. L’art roman, où sont privilégiés le silence et la lumière, doit beaucoup à saint Bernard. Et que dire de sa grande dévotion à Marie, à qui il réserve de beaux chants d’amour. Il ajouta ces dernières paroles au Salve Regina : « Ô clémente, ô toute belle, ô douce Vierge Marie. » Il nomme Marie « l’étoile de la mer » :

"Regarde l’étoile, appelle Marie. Dans les périls, les angoisses et les doutes, pense à Marie, invoque Marie. Que son nom ne s’éloigne jamais de tes lèvres, qu’il ne s’éloigne pas de ton cœur; et, pour obtenir le secours de sa prière, ne néglige pas l’exemple de sa vie. En la suivant, tu es sûr de ne pas dévier, en la priant, de ne pas désespérer; en la consultant, de ne pas te tromper."

Pour aller plus loin, ma biographie Saint Bernard de Clairvaux (Le Figaro / Presses de la Renaissance).
Les saints, ces fous admirables (Novalis / Béatitudes).

SOURCE : https://www.jacquesgauthier.com/blog/entry/20-aout-saint-bernard.html

Bernard de Clairvaux recevant le lait de la Vierge (Lactatio), 

MS Douce 264, f.38v. the Bodleian Library, Oxford


La curieuse histoire de la lactation de saint Bernard de Clairvaux

Domitille Farret d'Astiès - Publié le 29/03/18

Une légende raconte que saint Bernard de Clairvaux que nous fêtons ce 20 août a reçu un jet de lait directement du sein de la Vierge.

Connaissez-vous l’histoire de la lactation de saint Bernard de Clairvaux ? Certains sont sceptiques, d’autres la boivent comme du petit lait. Mais que l’on soit crédule, tempéré ou soupe-au-lait, cette histoire ne compte pas pour du beurre, encore moins en cette journée mondiale de l’allaitement.

Au XIIe siècle, ce bourguignon, conseiller des rois et des papes, réforma la vie religieuse catholique et notamment l’ordre des cisterciens . On raconte qu’un beau jour, alors que le bon moine faisait ses dévotions devant une statue de la Vierge , il prononça ces mots audacieux: Monstra te esse matrem  (Montrez-vous une mère). En guise de réponse, la sculpture se serait alors animée et la Vierge aurait propulsé du lait dans la bouche du saint assoiffé d’amour maternel… Une façon d’affirmer en actes sa maternité spirituelle. Une biographie du XVIIe siècle explique que ce geste généreux provoque chez lui « une douceur et un ravissement d’esprit extraordinaires ».

Lire aussi :
Redécouvrez saint Bernard de Clairvaux !

Plus prosaïquement, il est probable que des figures littéraires employées par le saint, auteur parmi les plus prolifiques de son temps, soit à la source d’une confusion … et d’une légende volontiers reprend par des peintres les siècles suivants. Plusieurs variantes existent d’ailleurs au sujet de cette fameuse « lactation » et, compte tenu du sujet, les représentations de ce « miracle » variant au grès des époques et des régions. Ce qui est certain, c’est que ce miracle n’est pas mentionné dans la Légende dorée de Jacques de Voragine. De quoi émettre quelques réserves sur son authenticité.

Il n’en demeure pas moins que saint Bernard de Clairvaux, surnommé parfois « le chantre de Marie », nous a laissé de magnifiques prières mariales. Cette beauté ne laisse cette fois aucun doute sur la sainteté de Bernard de Clairvaux et sa relation toute particulière avec la Vierge Marie:

«Lorsque vous assaillent les vents des tentations, lorsque vous voyez paraître les écueils du malheur, regardez l’étoile, invoquez Marie. Si vous êtes ballottés sur les vagues de l’orgueil, de l’ambition, de la calomnie, de la jalousie, regardez l’étoile, invoquez Marie. Si la colère, l’avarice, les séductions charnelles viennent secouer la légère embarcation de votre âme, levez les yeux vers Marie. Dans le péril, l’angoisse, le doute, pensez à Marie, invoquez Marie. Que son nom ne quitte ni vos lèvres ni vos cœurs! Et pour obtenir son intercession, ne vous détournez pas de son exemple. En la suivante, vous ne vous égarerez pas. En la suppliant, vous ne connaîtrez pas le désespoir. En pensant à elle, vous éviterez toute erreur. Si elle vous soutient, vous ne sombrerez pas; si elle vous protège, vous n’aurez rien à craindre; sous sa conduite vous ignorerez la fatigue; grâce à sa faveur, vous atteindrez le mais. Ainsi soit-il. »Louanges à Marie – Deuxième Homélie de Saint Bernard

SOURCE : https://fr.aleteia.org/2018/03/29/la-curieuse-histoire-de-la-lactation-de-saint-bernard-de-clairvaux/



Mort le 20 août 1153. Canonisé en 1174 par Alexandre III. Culte interne à l’ordre cistercien, toutefois il est inscrit au calendrier de la Curie Romaine en 1255.

St Pie V en fait une fête double en 1568. En 1830, Pie VIII le proclame Docteur.

Leçons des Matines avant 1960.

Au deuxième nocturne.

Quatrième leçon. Bernard naquit à Fontaine, en Bourgogne, d’une noble famille. Dans sa jeunesse, il fut, à cause de sa grande beauté, vivement sollicité par des femmes, mais aucune ne réussit à ébranler sa résolution de garder la chasteté. Pour fuir ces tentations du diable, il prit, à l’âge de vingt-deux ans, le parti d’entrer à Cîteaux, berceau de l’Ordre de ce nom, qui florissait alors par une grande sainteté. Ayant ou connaissance du projet de Bernard, ses frères mirent tous leurs efforts à l’en détourner ; mais, dans cette lutte, il fut le plus éloquent et le plus heureux ; car il les amena si bien, eux et d’autres, à sa manière de voir, que trente jeunes gens reçurent avec lui l’habit religieux. Devenu moine, il s’adonna tellement au jeûne, que chaque fois qu’il prenait son repas, il semblait endurer un supplice. Merveilleusement appliqué aux veilles et aux oraisons prolongées, voué à la pratique de la pauvreté chrétienne, il menait sur terre une vie presque céleste, étrangère aux sollicitudes et aux désirs des choses périssables.

Cinquième leçon. En lui brillaient l’humilité, la miséricorde, la douceur ; il était si attaché à la contemplation, qu’il semblait ne se servir de ses sens que pour les devoirs de la piété, en quoi cependant il se comportait avec la plus louable prudence. Pendant qu’il s’appliquait à ces exercices, il refusa successivement les évêchés de Gênes, de Milan, et plusieurs autres qui lui furent offerts, se déclarant indigne de l’honneur d’une telle dignité. Élu Abbé de Clairvaux, il construisit en beaucoup de lieux des monastères où se maintinrent longtemps la règle et la discipline du fondateur. Le monastère des Saints Vincent et Anastase à Rome ayant été restauré par le Pape Innocent II, Bernard y établit comme Abbé le religieux qui, plus tard, devint souverain Pontife sous le nom d’Eugène III. C’est à ce Pape qu’il adressa son livre De la Considération.

Sixième leçon. Bernard a écrit beaucoup d’autres ouvrages, dans lesquels se montre une doctrine inspirée par la grâce divine plutôt qu’acquise par l’étude. Sa grande réputation de vertu le fit appeler par les plus grands princes pour trancher leurs différends ; il dut aussi aller souvent en Italie pour régler les affaires de l’Église. Le souverain Pontife Innocent II eut en lui un aide précieux, tant pour mettre un terme au schisme suscité par Pierre de Léon, que dans ses légations près de l’empereur d’Allemagne, d’Henri, roi d’Angleterre, et du concile de Pisé. Enfin, à l’âge de soixante-trois ans, il s’endormit dans le Seigneur. Des miracles le glorifièrent et Alexandre III le mit au rang des Saints. Le souverain Pontife Pie VIII, de l’avis de la Congrégation des Rites, déclara saint Bernard Docteur de l’Église universelle, et ordonna en même temps qu’on dirait, le jour de sa fête, l’Office et la Messe des Docteurs. Il concéda aussi à perpétuité des indulgences plénières annuelles à tous ceux qui visiteraient ce jour-là les églises des Cisterciens.

Au troisième nocturne. Du Commun.

Lecture du saint Évangile selon saint Matthieu. Cap. 5, 13-19.

En ce temps-là : Jésus dit à ses disciples : Vous êtes le sel de la terre. Mais si le sel s’affadit, avec quoi le salera-t-on ? Et le reste.

Homélie de saint Jean Chrysostome. Homil. 15 in Matth., sub med.

Septième leçon. Remarquez ce que dit Jésus-Christ : « Vous êtes le sel de la terre ». Il montre par là combien il est nécessaire qu’il donne ces préceptes à ses Apôtres. Car, ce n’est pas seulement, leur dit-il, de votre propre vie, mais de l’univers entier que vous aurez à rendre compte. Je ne vous envoie pas comme j’envoyais les Prophètes, à deux, à dix, ou à vingt villes ni à une seule nation, mais à toute la terre, à la mer, et au monde entier, à ce monde accablé sous le poids de crimes divers.

Huitième leçon. En disant : « Vous êtes le sel de la terre », il montre que l’universalité des hommes était comme affadie et corrompue par une masse de péchés ; et c’est pourquoi il demande d’eux les vertus qui sont surtout nécessaires et utiles pour procurer le salut d’un grand nombre. Celui qui est doux, modeste, miséricordieux et juste, ne peut justement se borner à renfermer ces vertus en son âme, mais il doit avoir soin que ces sources excellentes coulent aussi pour l’avantage des autres. Ainsi celui qui a le cœur pur, qui est pacifique et qui souffre persécution pour la vérité, dirige-sa vie d’une manière utile à tous.

Neuvième leçon. Ne croyez donc point, dit-il, que ce soit à de légers combats que vous serez conduits, et que ce soient des choses de peu d’importance dont il vous faudra prendre soin et rendre compte, « vous êtes le sel de la terre ». Quoi donc ? Est-ce que les Apôtres ont guéri ce qui était déjà entièrement gâté ? Non certes ; car il ne se peut faire que ce qui tombe déjà en putréfaction soit rétabli dans son premier état par l’application du sel. Ce n’est donc pas cela qu’ils ont fait, mais ce qui était auparavant renouvelé et à eux confié, ce qui était délivré déjà de cette pourriture, ils y répandaient le sel et le conservaient dans cet état de rénovation qui est une grâce reçue du Seigneur. Délivrer de la corruption du péché, c’est l’effet de la puissance du Christ ; empêcher que les hommes ne retournent au péché, voilà ce qui réclame les soins et les labeurs des Apôtres.



Dom Guéranger, l’Année Liturgique

Le val d’absinthe a perdu ses poisons. Devenu Clairvaux, la claire vallée, il illumine le monde ; de tous les points de l’horizon, les abeilles vigilantes y sont attirées par le miel du rocher [1] qui déborde en sa solitude. Le regard de Marie s’est abaissé sur ces collines sauvages ; avec son sourire, la lumière et la grâce y sont descendues. Une voix harmonieuse, celle de Bernard, l’élu de son amour, s’est élevée du désert ; elle disait : « Connais, ô homme, le conseil de Dieu ; admire les vues de la Sagesse, le dessein de l’amour. Avant que d’arroser toute l’aire, il inonde la toison [2] ; voulant racheter le genre humain, il amasse en Marie la rançon entière. O Adam, ne dis plus : La femme que vous m’avez donnée m’a présenté du fruit défendu [3] ; dis plutôt : La femme que vous m’avez donnée m’a nourri d’un fruit de bénédiction. De quelle ardeur faut-il que nous honorions Marie, en qui la plénitude de tout bien fut déposée ! S’il est en nous quelque espérance, quelque grâce de salut, sachons qu’elle déborde de celle qui aujourd’hui s’élève inondée d’amour : jardin de délices, que le divin Auster n’effleure pas seulement d’un souffle rapide, mais sur lequel il fond des hauteurs et qu’il agite sans fin de la céleste brise, pour qu’en tous lieux s’en répandent les parfums [4], qui sont les dons des diverses grâces. Ôtez ce soleil matériel qui éclaire le monde : où sera le jour ? Ôtez Marie, l’étoile de la vaste mer : que restera-t-il, qu’obscurité enveloppant tout, nuit de mort, glaciales ténèbres ? Donc, par toutes les fibres de nos cœurs, par tous les amours de notre âme, par tout l’élan de nos aspirations, vénérons Marie ; car c’est la volonté de Celui qui a voulu que nous eussions tout par elle » [5].

Ainsi parlait ce moine dont l’éloquence, nourrie, comme il le disait, parmi les hêtres et les chênes des forêts [6], ne savait que répandre sur les plaies de son temps le vin et l’huile des Écritures. En 1113, âgé de vingt-deux ans, Bernard abordait Cîteaux dans la beauté de son adolescence mûrie déjà pour les grands combats. Quinze ans s’étaient écoulés depuis le 21 mars 1098, où Robert de Molesmes avait créé entre Dijon et Beaune le désert nouveau. Issue du passé en la fête même du patriarche des moines, la fondation récente ne se réclamait que de l’observance littérale de la Règle précieuse donnée par lui au monde. Pourtant l’infirmité du siècle se refusait à reconnaître, dans l’effrayante austérité des derniers venus de la grande famille, l’inspiration du très saint code où la discrétion règne en souveraine [7], le caractère de l’école accessible à tous, où Benoît « espérait ne rien établir de rigoureux ni de trop pénible au service du Seigneur » [8]. Sous le gouvernement d’Étienne Harding, successeur d’Albéric qui lui-même avait remplacé Robert, la petite communauté partie de Molesmes allait s’éteignant, sans espoir humain de remplir ses vides, quand l’arrivée du descendant des seigneurs de Fontaines, entouré des trente compagnons sa première conquête, fit éclater la vie où déjà s’étendait la mort.

Réjouis-toi, stérile qui n’enfantais pas ; voilà que vont se multiplier les fils de la délaissée [9]. La Ferté, fondée cette année même dans le Châlonnais, voit après elle Pontigny s’établir près d’Auxerre, en attendant qu’au diocèse de Langres Clairvaux et Morimond viennent compléter, dans l’année 1115, le quaternaire glorieux des filles de Cîteaux qui, avec leur mère, produiront partout des rejetons sans nombre. Bientôt (1119) la Charte de charité va consacrer l’existence de l’Ordre Cistercien dans l’Église ; l’arbre planté six siècles plus tôt au sommet du Cassin, montre une fois de plus au monde qu’à tous les âges il sait s’orner de nouvelles branches qui, sans être la tige, vivent de sa sève et sont la gloire de l’arbre entier.

Durant les mois de son noviciat cependant, Bernard a tellement dompté la nature, que l’homme intérieur vit seul en lui ; les sens de son propre corps lui demeurent comme étrangers. Par un excès toutefois qu’il se reprochera [10], la rigueur déployée dans le but d’obtenir un résultat si désirable a ruiné ce corps, indispensable auxiliaire de tout mortel dans le service de ses frères et de Dieu. Heureux coupable, que le ciel se chargera d’excuser lui-même magnifiquement ! Mais le miracle, sur lequel tous ne peuvent ni ne doivent compter, pourra seul le soutenir désormais dans l’accomplissement de la mission qui l’attend.

Bernard est ardent pour Dieu comme d’autres le sont pour leurs passions. « Vous voulez apprendre de moi, s’écrie-t-il dans un de ses premiers ouvrages, pourquoi et comment il faut aimer Dieu. Et moi, je vous réponds : La raison d’aimer Dieu, c’est Dieu même ; la mesure de l’aimer, c’est de l’aimer sans mesure » [11]. Quelles délices furent les siennes à Cîteaux, dans le secret de la face du Seigneur [12] ! Lorsque, après deux ans, il quitta ce séjour béni pour fonder Clairvaux, ce fut la sortie du paradis. Moins fait pour converser avec les hommes qu’avec les Anges, il commença, nous dit son historien, par être l’épreuve de ceux qu’il devait conduire : tant son langage était d’en haut, tant ses exigences de perfection dépassaient la force même de ces forts d’Israël, tant son étonnement se manifestait douloureux à la révélation des infirmités qui sont la part de toute chair [13].

Outrance de l’amour, eussent dit nos anciens, qui lui réservait d’autres surprises. Mais l’Esprit-Saint veillait sur le vase d’élection appelé à porter devant les peuples et les rois le nom du Seigneur [14] ; la divine charité qui consumait cette âme, lui fit comprendre, avec leurs durs contrastes, les deux objets inséparables de l’amour : Dieu, dont la bonté en fournit le motif, l’homme, dont la misère en est l’exercice éprouvant. Selon la remarque naïve de Guillaume de Saint-Thierry, son disciple et ami, Bernard réapprit l’art de vivre avec les humains [15] ; il se pénétra des admirables recommandations du législateur des moines, quand il dit de l’Abbé établi sur ses frères : « Dans les corrections même, qu’il agisse avec prudence et sans excès, de crainte qu’en voulant trop racler la rouille, le vase ne se brise. En imposant les travaux, qu’il use de discernement et de modération, se rappelant la discrétion du saint patriarche Jacob, qui disait : Si je fatigue mes troupeaux en les faisant trop marcher, ils périront tous en un jour [16]. Faisant donc son profit de cet exemple et autres semblables sur la discrétion, qui est la mère des vertus, qu’il tempère tellement toutes choses que les forts désirent faire davantage, et que les faibles ne se découragent pas » [17].

En recevant ce que le Psalmiste appelle l’intelligence de la misère du pauvre [18], Bernard sentit son cœur déborder de la tendresse de Dieu pour les rachetés du sang divin. Il n’effraya plus les humbles. Près des petits qu’attirait la grâce de ses discours, vinrent se ranger les sages, les puissants, les riches du siècle, abandonnant leurs vanités, devenus eux-mêmes petits et pauvres à l’école de celui qui savait les conduire tous des premiers éléments de l’amour à ses sommets. Au milieu des sept cents moines recevant de lui chaque jour la doctrine du salut, l’Abbé de Clairvaux pouvait s’écrier avec la noble fierté des saints : « Celui qui est puissant a fait en nous de grandes choses, et c’est à bon droit que notre âme magnifie le Seigneur. Voici que nous avons tout quitté pour vous suivre [19] : grande résolution, gloire des grands Apôtres ; mais nous aussi, par sa grande grâce, nous l’avons prise magnifiquement. Et peut-être même qu’en cela encore, si je veux me glorifier, ce ne sera pas folie ; car je dirai la vérité : il y en a ici qui ont laissé plus qu’une barque et des filets » [20].

Et dans une autre circonstance : « Quoi de plus admirable, disait-il, que de voir celui qui autrefois pouvait deux jours à peine s’abstenir du péché, s’en garder des années et sa vie entière ? Quel plus grand miracle que celui de tant de jeunes hommes, d’adolescents, de nobles personnages, de tous ceux enfin que j’aperçois ici, retenus sans liens dans une prison ouverte, captifs de la seule crainte de Dieu, et qui persévèrent dans les macérations d’une pénitence au delà des forces humaines, au-dessus de la nature, contraire à la coutume ? Que de merveilles nous pourrions trouver, vous le savez bien, s’il nous était permis de rechercher par le détail ce que furent pour chacun la sortie de l’Égypte, la route au désert, l’entrée au monastère, la vie dans ses murs [21] ! »

Mais d’autres merveilles que celles dont le cloître garde le secret au Roi des siècles, éclataient déjà de toutes parts. La voix qui peuplait les solitudes, avait par delà d’incomparables échos. Le monde, pour l’écouter, s’arrêta sur la pente qui conduit aux abîmes. Assourdie des mille bruits discordants de l’erreur, du schisme et des passions, on vit l’humanité se taire une heure aux accents nouveaux dont la mystérieuse puissance l’enlevait à son égoïsme, et lui rendait pour les combats de Dieu l’unité des beaux jours. Suivrons-nous dans ses triomphes le vengeur du sanctuaire, l’arbitre des rois, le thaumaturge acclamé des peuples ? Mais c’est ailleurs que Bernard a placé son ambition et son trésor [22] ; c’est au dedans qu’est la vraie gloire [23]. Ni la sainteté, ni le mérite, ne se mesurent devant Dieu au succès ; et cent miracles ne valent pas, pour la récompense, un seul acte d’amour. Tous les sceptres inclinés devant lui, l’enivrement des foules, la confiance illimitée des Pontifes, il n’est rien, dans ces années de son historique grandeur, qui captive la pensée de Bernard, bien plutôt qui n’irrite la blessure profonde de sa vie, celle qu’il reçut au plus intime de l’âme, quand il lui fallut quitter cette solitude à laquelle il avait donné son cœur.

A l’apogée de cet éclat inouï éclipsant toute grandeur d’alors, quand, docile à ses pieds, une première fois soumis par lui au Christ en son vicaire, l’Occident tout entier est jeté par Bernard sur l’infidèle Orient dans une lutte suprême, entendons ce qu’il dit : « Il est bien temps que je ne m’oublie pas moi-même. Ayez pitié de ma conscience angoissée : quelle vie monstrueuse que la mienne ! Chimère de mon siècle, ni clerc ni laïque, je porte l’habit d’un moine et n’en ai plus les observances. Dans les périls qui m’assiègent, au bord des précipices qui m’attirent, secourez-moi de vos conseils, priez pour moi » [24].

Absent de Clairvaux, il écrit à ses moines : « Mon âme est triste ; elle ne sera point consolée qu’elle ne vous retrouve. Faut-il, hélas ! que mon exil d’ici-bas, si longtemps prolongé, s’aggrave encore ? Véritablement ils ont ajouté douleur sur douleur à mes maux, ceux qui nous ont séparés. Ils m’ont enlevé le seul remède qui me fit supporter d’être sans le Christ ; en attendant de contempler sa face glorieuse, il m’était donné du moins de vous voir, vous son saint temple De ce temple, le passage me semblait facile à l’éternelle patrie. Combien souvent cette consolation m’est ôtée ! C’est la troisième fois, si je ne me trompe, qu’on m’arrache mes entrailles. Mes enfants sont sevrés avant le temps ; je les avais engendrés par l’Évangile, et je ne puis les nourrir. Contraint de négliger ce qui m’est cher, de m’occuper d’intérêts étrangers, je ne sais presque ce qui m’est le plus dur, ou d’être enlevé aux uns, ou d’être mêlé aux autres. Jésus, ma vie doit-elle donc tout entière s’écouler dans les gémissements ? Il m’est meilleur de mourir que de vivre ; mais je voudrais ne mourir qu’au milieu des miens ; j’y trouverais plus de douceur, plus de sûreté. Plaise à mon Seigneur que les yeux d’un père, si indigne qu’il se reconnaisse de porter ce nom, soient fermés de la main de ses fils ; qu’ils l’assistent dans le dernier passage : que leurs désirs, si vous l’en jugez digne, élèvent son âme au séjour bienheureux ; qu’ils ensevelissent le corps d’un pauvre avec les corps de ceux qui furent pauvres comme lui. Par la prière, par le mérite de mes frères, si j’ai trouvé grâce devant vous, accordez-moi ce vœu ardent de mon cœur. Et pourtant, que votre volonté se fasse, et non la mienne ; car je ne veux ni vivre ni mourir pour moi » [25].

Plus grand dans son abbaye qu’au milieu des plus nobles cours, saint Bernard en effet devait y mourir à l’heure voulue de Dieu, non sans avoir vu l’épreuve publique [26] et privée [27] préparer son âme à la purification suprême. Une dernière fois il reprit sans les achever ses entretiens de dix-huit années sur le Cantique, conférences familières recueillies pieusement par la plume de ses fils, et où se révèlent d’une manière si touchante le zèle des enfants pour la divine science, le cœur du père et sa sainteté, les incidents de la vie de chaque jour à Clairvaux [28]. Arrivé au premier verset du troisième chapitre, il décrivait la recherche du Verbe par l’âme dans l’infirmité de cette vie, dans la nuit de ce monde [29], quand son discours interrompu le laissa dans l’éternel face à face, où cessent toute énigme, toute figure et toute ombre.

Offrons à saint Bernard cette Hymne aux naïves allusions, bien digne de lui pour la suavité gracieuse avec laquelle elle chante ses grandeurs.



HYMNE.

Lacte quondam profluentes,

Ite, montes, vos procul,

Ite, colles, fusa quondam

Unde mellis flumina ;

Isræl, jactare late

Manna priscum desine.

Ecce cujus corde sudant,

Cuius ore profluunt

Dulciores lacte fontes,

Mellis amnes æmuli :

Ore tanto, corde tanto

Manna nullum dulcius.

Quæris unde duxit ortum

Tanta lactis copia ;

Unde favus, unde prompta

Tanta mellis suavitas ;

Unde tantum manna fluxit,

Unde tot dulcedines.

Lactis imbres Virgo fudit

Cœlitus puerpera :

Mellis amnes os leonis

Excitavit mortui :

Manna sylvæ, cœlitumque

Solitudo proxima.

Doctor o Bernarde, tantis

Aucte cœli dotibus,

Lactis hujus, mellis hujus,

Funde rores desuper ;

Funde stillas, pleniore

Jam potitus gurgite.



Monts qui jadis laissiez le lait

s’échapper des rochers, disparaissez au loin ;

disparaissez, collines dont les pentes

autrefois répandaient le miel en ruisseaux ;

Israël, cesse de vanter

l’antique manne par le monde.

Voici quelqu’un de qui le cœur

verse des flots plus doux que le lait,

de qui la bouche épand

des ondes rivales du miel :

nulle manne plus suave que

cette noble bouche, que ce grand cœur.

Vous demandez d’où prend sa source

un lait de si grande abondance,

d’où provient le rayon

d’où se distille un miel de telle suavité,

d’où pareille manne a pris naissance,

d’où coulent enfin tant de douceurs,

La pluie de lait, c’est la Vierge Mère

qui du ciel l’a répandue ;

les flots de miel ont leur origine

dans la gueule d’un lion mort ;

les forêts, la solitude voisine des cieux,

ont produit la manne.

O Bernard, ô Docteur

enrichi d’en haut de tels dons,

versez sur nous la rosée

de ce lait, de ce miel ;

versez les gouttes, maintenant que leur plénitude,

maintenant que la mer est à vous.

Soit louange souveraine au Père souverain,

souveraine à son Fils ;

pareille à vous, Esprit-Saint

qui procédez de l’un et de l’autre :

comme il était, et maintenant,

et toujours, gloire égale à jamais.

Amen.



Il convenait que l’on vît le héraut de la Mère de Dieu suivre de près son char de triomphe ; et c’est avec délices qu’entrant au ciel en l’Octave radieuse, vous vous perdez dans la gloire de celle dont vous proclamiez ici-bas les grandeurs. Protégez-nous à sa cour ; inclinez vers Cîteaux ses yeux maternels ; en son nom, sauvez encore l’Église et défendez le Vicaire de l’Époux.

Mais en ce jour, vous nous conviez, plutôt que de vous implorer vous-même, à la chanter, à la prier avec vous ; l’hommage que vous agréez le plus volontiers, ô Bernard, est de nous voir mettre à profit vos écrits sublimes pour admirer « celle qui monte aujourd’hui glorieuse, et porte au comble le bonheur des habitants des cieux. Si brillant déjà, le ciel resplendit d’un éclat nouveau à la lumière du flambeau virginal. Aussi, dans les hauteurs, retentissent l’action de grâces et la louange. Ne faut-il pas faire nôtres, en notre exil, ces allégresses de la patrie ? Sans demeure permanente, nous cherchons la cité où la Vierge bénie parvient à cette heure. Citoyens de Jérusalem, il est bien juste que, de la rive des fleuves de Babylone, nous en ayons souvenir et dilations nos cœurs au débordement du fleuve de félicité dont les gouttelettes rejaillissent aujourd’hui jusqu’à la terre. Notre Reine a pris les devants ; la réception qui lui est faite nous donne confiance à nous sa suite et ses serviteurs. Notre caravane, précédée de la Mère de miséricorde, à titre d’avocate près du Juge son Fils, aura bon accueil dans l’affaire du salut [30].

« Qu’il taise votre miséricorde, Vierge bienheureuse, celui qui se rappelle vous avoir invoquée en vain dans ses nécessités ! Pour nous, vos petits serviteurs, nous applaudissons à vos autres vertus ; mais de celle-ci, c’est nous que nous félicitons. Nous louons en vous la virginité, nous admirons votre humilité ; mais la miséricorde a pour les malheureux plus de douceur, nous l’embrassons plus chèrement, nous la rappelons plus fréquemment, nous l’invoquons sans trêve. Qui dira, ô bénie, la longueur, la largeur, la hauteur, la profondeur de la vôtre ? Sa longueur, elle s’étend jusqu’au dernier jour ; sa largeur, elle couvre la terre ; sa hauteur et sa profondeur, elle a rempli le ciel et vidé l’enfer. Aussi puissante que miséricordieuse, ayant maintenant recouvré votre Fils, manifestez au monde la grâce que vous avez trouvée devant Dieu : obtenez le pardon au pécheur, la santé à l’infirme, force pour les pusillanimes, consolation pour les affligés, secours et délivrance pour ceux que menace un péril quelconque [31],ô clémente, ô miséricordieuse, ô douce Vierge Marie [32] ! »

[1] Deut. XXXII, 13.

[2] Judic. VI, 37-40.

[3] Gen. III, 12.

[4] Cant. IV, 16.

[5] Bernard. Sermo in Nativ. B. M.

[6] Vita Bernardi, I, IV, 23.

[7] Greg. Dialog. II, XXXVI.

[8] S. P. Benedict. in Reg. Prolog.

[9] Isai. LIV, 1.

[10] Vita, I, VIII, 41.

[11] De diligendo Deo, I, 1.

[12] Psalm. XXX, 13.

[13] Vita, I, VI, 27-30.

[14] Act. IX, 15.

[15] Vita, I, VI, 30.

[16] Gen. XXXIII, 13.

[17] S. P. Benedict. Reg. LXIV.

[18] Psalm. XL, 2.

[19] Matth. XIX, 27.

[20] Bern. De Diversis, Sermo XXXVII, 7.

[21] In Dedicat. Eccl. Sermo 1, 2.

[22] Matth. VI, 21.

[23] Psalm. XLIV, 14.

[24] Epist. CCL.

[25] Epist. CXLI.

[26] De Consideratione, II, I, 1-4.

[27] Epist. CCXCVIII, etc.

[28] In Cantica, Sermon. I, 1 ; III, 6 ; XXVI, 3-14 ; XXXVI, 7 ; XLIV, 8 ; LXXIV, 1-7 ; etc.

[29] Ibid. Sermo LXXXVI, 4.

[30] Bernard. In Assumpt B. V. M. Sermo 1.

[31] Bernard. In Assumpt. B. M. V. Sermo IV.

[32] On sait que la tradition de la cathédrale de Spire attribue à saint Bernard l’addition de ces trois cris du cœur au Salve Regina.



Bhx cardinal Schuster, Liber Sacramentorum

Dans la basilique transtévérine de Sainte-Marie, sur le tympan du tombeau du pape Innocent II, l’on voit un moine vêtu de blanc, qui ramène le Pontife à Rome et le fait asseoir triomphalement sur le trône de saint Pierre. Ce moine est saint Bernard, abbé de Clairvaux.

Figure vraiment grandiose, Bernard fut en même temps réformateur de la vie monastique, apôtre de la Croisade, docteur de l’Église universelle, thaumaturge, pacificateur des rois, des princes et des peuples, oracle des Papes et champion du pontificat romain contre les schismes et les hérésies. Son corps, épuisé par les pénitences et les maladies, arrivait à grand’peine à retenir une âme toute de feu pour la gloire de Dieu. Ce feu brûlait autour de lui, en sorte que ses secrétaires ne suffisaient pas à enregistrer toutes les guérisons miraculeuses qu’il opérait par le seul attouchement de sa main ou par sa simple bénédiction.

Les nécessités de l’Église amenèrent plusieurs fois saint Bernard à descendre en Italie et à venir à Rome. On lui doit la restauration de l’abbaye ad aquas Salvias, sur la voie Laurentine, où il établit comme abbé ce Bernard de Pise, qui devint ensuite Eugène III.

Les relations du maître avec son ancien disciple devenu pape sont admirables. Bernard ne peut oublier son rôle paternel vis-à-vis de l’âme du Pontife, et pour l’aider à bien méditer, il lui adresse son ouvrage De Consideratione, qui, avec le Pastoral de saint Grégoire le Grand, ne manqua jamais de figurer, jusqu’au XVIe siècle, dans la bibliothèque de l’appartement pontifical.

La messe est celle des Docteurs, sauf la première lecture, commune à la fête de saint Léon Ier. En effet, saint Bernard refusa constamment, par humilité, les honneurs de l’épiscopat qui lui avait été offert plusieurs fois. Son activité de docteur s’exerça en grande partie dans l’enceinte de son abbaye, où il prêchait assidûment aux moines, leur commentant les divines Écritures. Cet aspect spécial de l’activité de saint Bernard est en parfaite relation avec la règle du Patriarche saint Benoît, qui conçoit le monastère comme une Dominici schola servitii, où l’abbé doit prodiguer sans cesse son enseignement spirituel aux moines.

Les disciples de saint Bernard furent très nombreux et se distinguèrent par une grande sainteté. Parmi eux se trouvent ses parents et ses frères, qui le suivirent dans le cloître. On raconte que, quand saint Bernard, suivi de trente membres de sa famille attirés par lui au monastère, fut sur le point d’abandonner le château paternel, il dit à son petit frère Nivard qui jouait dans la cour : « Adieu, Nivard, nous te laissons tous ces biens que tu vois alentour ». Mais l’enfant, avec une sagesse bien supérieure à son âge, répondit : « Ce partage n’a pas été fait avec justice. Comment ! Vous me laissez la terre et vous prenez le ciel ? » Et il voulait les suivre, lui aussi, au monastère, mais on lui en refusa l’entrée jusqu’à un âge plus mûr.

Notons une pensée expressive de saint Bernard, sur la nécessité de la sainteté en un ministre de Dieu, qui, si non placet, non placat.



Dom Pius Parsch, Le guide dans l’année liturgique

Le Docteur melliflue.

1. Saint Bernard. — Jour de mort : 20 août 1153, à l’âge de 62 ans. Tombeau : Dans l’église abbatiale de Clairvaux (devant l’autel de la Très Sainte Vierge). Vie : Saint Bernard, le second fondateur de l’Ordre des Cisterciens, est surnommé le Docteur « melliflue » (Doctor mellifluus). Ses sermons, que nous trouvons en grande partie au bréviaire, sont remarquables par la profondeur extraordinaire du sentiment. On lui attribue l’admirable « Memorare ». Saint Bernard est né, en 1090, d’une famille de vieille noblesse bourguignonne ; il entra à 22 ans au monastère de Cîteaux, berceau de l’Ordre des Cisterciens, et détermina 30 jeunes gens de son rang à le suivre. Il fut bientôt promu abbé de Clairvaux (1115) et construisit de nombreux monastères dans lesquels survécut pendant longtemps son esprit. Son élève, Bernard de Pise, devint pape plus tard sous le nom d’Eugène III ; c’est à lui qu’il dédia son ouvrage, écrit en toute franchise, le « De consideratione ». Il exerça une puissante influence sur les princes, le clergé et le peuple de son temps. Il fut aussi un apôtre zélé de la croisade.

2. La messe (In medio) est du commun des docteurs toutefois avec une leçon propre qui a rapport à la vie contemplative du saint moine. Nous voyons Bernard prier pendant la nuit ; avec sa famille monacale il observe les veilles nocturnes ; nous le voyons gouverner son monastère avec prudence ; il est attentif au maintien de la discipline de l’Ordre. Son souvenir est toujours vivant dans son Ordre et dans l’Église.

2. La communauté. — Notre saint, comme illustre abbé et fondateur de monastères, a cultivé et porté très haut l’esprit de communauté ; nous sommes justement frappés aujourd’hui que la messe « In medio » contienne un si grand nombre de pensées communautaires. Nous pourrions presque l’intituler : « Le Docteur de l’Église au service de la communauté ». Montrons cela dans quelques passages.

A l’Introït, la liturgie voit le saint docteur « au milieu de l’Église » ; c’est Dieu lui-même qui lui « ouvre la bouche ». Et sa voix ne se perd plus dans l’Église. Comme jadis, il est encore maintenant et toujours docteur ; aujourd’hui encore il enseigne dans la messe.

L’Oraison exprime cette pensée : Dieu a constitué « pour son peuple » notre saint comme « serviteur » et guide du « salut éternel » ; il exerce ce service à l’égard du corps mystique de deux façons : il fut sur terre un « doctor vitae », c’est-à-dire un docteur de la vie éternelle ; il est au ciel un « intercessor », c’est-à-dire qu’il prie pour nous. Dans cette prière nous apprenons à connaître le service rendu par le saint à la communauté de l’Église.

L’Évangile renferme tout particulièrement des pensées communautaires. Le Christ nous enseigne les devoirs envers la communauté par quatre comparaisons : celles du sel, de la lumière du monde, de la ville sur la montagne et de la lumière dans la maison. Pénétrons le sens de ces comparaisons : le sel doit empêcher la viande de se corrompre ; ainsi le chrétien doit, non pas tant par ses paroles ni par son action que par sa présence même, empêcher la propagation de corruption morale. C’est ce que dit expressément la seconde comparaison : le soleil est la lumière du monde ; le chrétien doit être soleil ; le soleil donne vie, croissance, chaleur, lumière, joie. Le chrétien est la ville sur la montagne, c’est la figure de l’Église. Dans chaque vrai chrétien l’Église doit apparaître aux hommes ! La quatrième comparaison est tout à fait remarquable : Tu dois être une lumière dans la maison ; ton devoir est de faire briller la lumière du Christ au sein de la famille ; service Important envers la communauté la plus intime, la famille.

Appliquons maintenant ces quatre comparaisons à la vie de saint Bernard : l’abbé et l’homme surnaturel, voilà ce qu’il fut pour son temps, pour son Ordre, pour son monastère ! Allons et faisons de même !

Enfin la Communion nous donne une belle image de la communauté : Pendant que le prêtre accomplit l’acte le plus élevé de la communauté, pendant qu’il nourrit au nom du Christ sa sainte famille du pain céleste (communion = communauté), l’Église se souvient du saint abbé qui fut placé par le Seigneur dans sa famille liturgique comme administrateur et père, qui remplit sa charge « avec fidélité et prudence » et distribua à sa « famille » la « mesure de froment », du froment terrestre, mais aussi du froment céleste, la doctrine et l’Eucharistie. En notre Abbé l’Église se voit elle-même ; elle est la mère « fidèle et prudente » qui distribue à sa famille maintenant encore à la messe, « en temps opportun », c’est-à-dire tous les jours, le Froment céleste.


Francisco Ribalta, Le Christ embrassant saint Bernard de Clairvaux
vers 1625, 158 X 113, Madrid, musée du Prado


PANÉGYRIQUE DE SAINT BERNARD (a).

Non enim judicavi me scire aliquid inter vos, nisi Jesum Christum, et hunc crucifixum.

Je n'ai pas estimé que je susse aucune chose parmi vous, si ce n'est Jésus-Christ, et Jésus-Christ crucifié. I Corinth., II, 2.

Nos églises de France ont introduit dans le dernier siècle une pieuse coutume, de commencer les prédications en invoquant l'assistance divine par les intercessions de la bienheureuse Marie. Comme nos adversaires ne pouvaient souffrir l'honneur si légitime que nous rendons à la sainte Vierge, comme ils le blâmaient par des invectives aussi sanglantes qu'elles étaient injustes et téméraires, l'Eglise a cru qu'il était à propos de résister à leur audacieuse entreprise, et de recommander d'autant plus cette dévotion aux fidèles, que l'hérésie s'y opposait avec plus de fureur. Et parce que nous n'avons rien de plus vénérable que la prédication du saint Evangile, c'est là qu'elle invite tous ses enfants à implorer les oraisons de Marie, qu'elle reconnaît leur être si profitables.

Mais il y a, ce me semble, une autre raison plus particulière de cette sainte cérémonie : c'est que le devoir des prédicateurs est d'engendrer Jésus-Christ dans les âmes. « Mes petits enfants, dit l'Apôtre, pour lesquels je suis encore dans les douleurs de l'enfantement jusqu'à ce que Jésus-Christ soit formé en vous (Galat., IV, 19). » Vous voyez qu'il enfante et qu'il engendre Jésus-Christ dans les âmes : ainsi il y a quelque convenance entre les prédicateurs de la parole divine et la sainte Mère de Dieu. C'est pourquoi le grand saint Grégoire ne craint pas d'appeler mères de Jésus-Christ ceux qui sont appelés à ce glorieux ministère (in Evang., lib. I, hom. III, n. 2). De là vient que l'Eglise s'est persuadé aisément que vous, ô très-heureuse Marie, bénite entre toutes les femmes, vous qui avez été prédestinée dès l'éternité pour engendrer selon la chair le Fils du Très-Haut, vous aideriez volontiers de vos pieuses intercessions ceux qui le doivent engendrer en esprit dans les cœurs de tous les fidèles.

Mais dans quelle prédication doit-on plus espérer de votre secours que dans celle que ce peuple attend aujourd'hui, où nous avons à louer la grâce et la miséricorde divine dans la sainteté du dévot Bernard, de Bernard le plus fidèle et le plus chaste de vos enfants ; celui de tous les hommes qui a le plus honoré votre maternité glorieuse, qui a le mieux imité votre pureté angélique, qui a cru devoir à vos soins et à votre charité maternelle l'influence continuelle des grâces qu'il recevait de votre cher Fils? Aidez-nous donc par vos saintes prières, ô très-bénite Marie, aidez-nous à louer l'ouvrage de vos prières : pour cela nous nous jetons à vos pieds, vous saluant et vous disant avec l'ange : Ave.

Parmi les divers ornements du pontife de la loi ancienne, celui qui me semble le plus remarquable, c'est ce mystérieux pectoral, sur lequel selon l'Ecriture il portait gravé ces mots : Urim et Tumim (Levit., VIII, 8), c'est-à-dire Vérité et Doctrine; ou comme l'entendent d'autres interprètes, Lumière et Perfection. Je sais que cela est écrit pour nous faire voir quelles doivent être les. qualités des ministres des choses sacrées ; et qu'encore que leurs habillements magnifiques semblent les rendre assez remarquables, ce n'est pas là toutefois ce qui les doit discerner du peuple; mais que la vraie marque sacerdotale, le vrai ornement du grand prêtre , c'est la Doctrine et la Vérité : c'est ce qui nous est représenté en ce lieu.

Mais si nous portons plus loin nos pensées, si dans le pontife du Vieux Testament, qui n'avait que des ombres et des figures, nous considérons Jésus-Christ, qui est la fin de la loi et le pontife de la nouvelle alliance, nous y trouverons quelque chose de plus merveilleux. Chrétiens, c'est ce saint Pontife, c'est ce grand Sacrificateur qui porte véritablement sur lui-même la doctrine, la perfection et la vérité , non point sur des pierres précieuses, ni dans des caractères gravés , comme faisaient les enfants d'Aaron , mais dans ses actions irrépréhensibles et dans sa conduite toute divine.

Pour comprendre cette vérité nécessaire à l'intelligence de notre texte, remettez, s'il vous plaît, en votre mémoire que Jésus-Christ notre Maître est le Fils de Dieu. Vous êtes trop bien instruits pour ignorer que Dieu n'engendre pas à la façon ordinaire, et que cette génération n'a rien de matériel ni de corruptible. Dieu est esprit, fidèles, et ne vit que de raison et d'intelligence ; de là vient aussi qu'il engendre par son intelligence et par sa raison : de sorte que le Fils de Dieu est le fruit d'une connaissance très-pure, et qui, dans une simplicité incompréhensible, ne laisse pas d'être infiniment étendue. Etant le fruit de la raison et de l'intelligence divine, il est lui-même raison et intelligence ; et c'est pourquoi l'Ecriture l'appelle la parole et la sagesse du Père.

Et d'autant qu'il ne se peut faire que Dieu agisse autrement que par sa raison et par sa sagesse, de là vient que nous voyons dans les saintes Lettres que Dieu a tout fait par son Verbe, qui est son Fils : Omnia per ipsum facta sunt (Joan., I, 3), parce que son Verbe est sa raison et sa lumière. C'est pourquoi cette grande machine du monde est un ouvrage si bien entendu, et fait reluire de toutes parts un ordre si admirable avec une excellente raison. Il ne se peut que la disposition n'en soit belle , et tous les mouvements raisonnables, parce qu'ils viennent d'une idée très-sage , et d'une science très-assurée, et d'une raison souveraine, qui est le Verbe et le Fils de Dieu, par qui toutes choses ont été faites, par qui elles sont disposées et régies.

Or, fidèles, ce Verbe divin après avoir fait éclater sa sagesse dans la structure et le gouvernement de cet univers, parce que, comme dit l'apôtre saint Jean, par lui toutes choses ont été faites, touché d'un amour incroyable pour notre nature, il nous le manifeste encore d'une façon tout ensemble plus familière et plus excellente dans un ouvrage plus divin, et qui ne laisse pas toutefois de nous toucher aussi de bien plus près. Comment cela, direz-vous? Ah! voici le grand conseil de notre bon Dieu et la grande consolation des fidèles : c'est que ce Verbe éternel, comme vous savez, s'est fait homme dans la plénitude des temps ; il s'est uni à notre nature , il a pris l'humanité dans les entrailles de la bienheureuse Marie; et c'est cette miraculeuse union qui nous a donné Jésus-Christ, Dieu et Homme, notre Maître et notre Sauveur.

Par conséquent la sainte humanité de Jésus étant unie au Verbe divin, elle est régie et gouvernée par le même Verbe. Car de même que la raison humaine gouverne les appétits du corps qui lui est uni, tellement que la partie même inférieure participe en quelque sorte à la raison, en tant qu'elle s'y soumet et lui obéit : de même le Verbe divin gouverne l'humanité dont il s'est revêtu; et comme il l'a rendue sienne d'une façon extraordinaire, il la régit aussi, il la meut et il l'anime avec un soin et d'une manière ineffable; si bien que toutes les actions de cette nature humaine, que le Verbe divin s'est appropriée , sont toutes pleines de cette sagesse incréée, qui est le Fils de Dieu , et sont dignes du Verbe éternel auquel elle est divinement unie et par lequel elle est singulièrement gouvernée. De là vient que les anciens Pères parlant des actions de cet Homme-Dieu, les ont appelées Opérations théandriques, c'est-à-dire opérations mêlées du divin et de l'humain, opérations divines et humaines tout ensemble : humaines par leur nature, divines par leur principe; d'autant que le Dieu Verbe s'étant rendu propre la sainte humanité de Jésus, il en considère les actions comme siennes, et ne cesse d'y faire couler une influence toute divine de grâces et de sagesse qui les anime , et qui les relève au delà de ce que nous pouvons concevoir.

Notre doctrine étant ainsi supposée, il ne nous sera pas difficile de l'appliquer aux paroles du saint Apôtre, qui servent de fondement à tout ce discours. Je dis donc que l'humanité de Jésus touchant de si près au Verbe divin et lui appartenant par une espèce d'union si intime, il était obligé pour l'intérêt de sa gloire de la conduire par sa sagesse : d'où il résulte que toutes les actions de Jésus venaient d'un principe divin et d'un fond de sagesse infinie. Partant si nous voulons reconnaître quelle estime nous devons faire des choses qui se présentent à nous, nous n'avons qu'à considérer le choix ou le mépris qu'en a fait le Sauveur Jésus pendant qu'il a vécu sur la terre. Comme il est la parole substantielle du Père, toutes ses actions parlent et toutes ses œuvres instruisent.

On nous a toujours fait entendre que la meilleure façon d'enseigner, c'est de faire. L'action en effet a je ne sais quoi de plus vif et de plus pressant que les paroles les plus éloquentes. C'est aussi pour cela que le Fils de Dieu , ce divin Précepteur que Dieu nous a envoyé du ciel, a choisi cette noble manière de nous enseigner par ses actions; et cette instruction est d'autant plus persuasive et plus forte qu'étant réglée par la sagesse même de Dieu, nous sommes assurés qu'il ne peut manquer. Bonté incroyable de notre Dieu! voyant que nous étions contraints d'aller puiser en divers endroits les ondes salutaires de la vérité, non sans un grand travail et un péril éminent de nous égarer dans une recherche si difficile, il nous a proposé son cher Fils, dans lequel il a ramassétoutes les vérités qui nous sont utiles, comme dans un saint et mystérieux abrégé; et ayant pitié de nos ignorances et de nos irrésolutions, il a tellement disposé sa vie , que par elle toutes les choses nécessaires pour la conduite des mœurs sont très-évidemment décidées : d'où vient que l'apôtre saint Paul nous assure « qu'en Jésus-Christ sont cachés tous les trésors de la science et de la sagesse : » In quo sunt omnes thesauri sapientiœ et scientiœ absconditi (Coloss., II, 3). C'est pourquoi, dit le même saint Paul (I Cor., II, 1 et seq), je ne cherche pas la bonne doctrine clans les écrits curieux, ni dans les raisonnements incertains des philosophes et des orateurs enflés de leur vaine éloquence ; seulement j'étudie le Sauveur Jésus, et en lui je vois toutes choses. De cette sorte, fidèles, Jésus n'est pas seulement notre Maître, mais il est encore l'objet de nos connaissances : il n'est pas seulement la lumière qui nous guide à la vérité, mais il est lui-même la vérité dont nous désirons la science ; et c'est pourquoi nous sommes appelés Chrétiens, non-seulement parce que nous professons de ne suivre point d'autre Maître que Jésus-Christ, mais encore parce que nous faisons gloire de ne savoir autre chose que Jésus-Christ. Et certes ce serait en vain que nous rechercherions d'autres instructions, puisque par le Verbe fait homme la science elle-même nous a parlé ; et que la sagesse, pour nous enseigner, a fait devant nous ce qu'il fallait faire, et que la vérité même s'est manifestée à nos esprits et s'est rendue sensible à nos yeux.

Voilà de quelle sorte Jésus-Christ, notre grand Pontife, a porté sur lui-même la doctrine et la vérité. Mais d'autant que c'est à la croix qu'il a particulièrement exercé sa charge de souverain Prêtre, c'est là, c'est là, mes Frères, que malgré la fureur de ses ennemis et la honte de sa nudité ignominieuse , il nous a paru le mieux revêtu de ces beaux ornements de doctrine et de vérité. Jésus était le livre où Dieu a écrit notre instruction ; mais c'est à la croix que ce grand livre s'est le mieux ouvert par ses bras étendus , et par ses cruelles blessures , et par sa chair percée de toutes parts : car après une si belle leçon que nous reste-t-il à apprendre? Fidèles, ce qui nous abuse , ce qui nous empêche de reconnaître le souverain bien, qui est la seule science profitable , c'est l'attachement et l'aveugle estime que nous avons pour les biens sensibles. C'est ce qui a obligé le Sauveur Jésus à choisir volontairement les injures, les tourments et la mort. Bien plus, il a choisi de toutes les injures les plus sensibles, et de tous les supplices le plus infâme, et de toutes les morts la plus douloureuse, afin de nous faire voir combien sont méprisables les choses que les mortels abusés appellent des biens ; et qu'en quelque extrémité de misère, de pauvreté, de douleurs que l'homme puisse être réduit, il sera toujours puissant, abondant, bienheureux, pourvu que Dieu lui demeure.

Ce sont ces vérités, chrétiens, que le grand Pontife Jésus nous montre écrites sur son corps déchiré, et c'est ce qu'il nous crie par autant de bouches qu'il a de plaies : de sorte que sa croix n'est pas seulement le sanctuaire d'un pontife et l'autel d'une victime, mais la chaire d'un maître et le trône d'un législateur. Delà vient que l'apôtre saint Paul, après avoir dit qu'il ne sait autre chose que Jésus-Christ, ajoute aussitôt : « Et Jésus-Christ crucifié, » parce que si ces vérités chrétiennes nous sont montrées dans la vie de Jésus, nous les lisons encore bien plus efficacement dans sa mort, scellées et confirmées par son sang : tellement que Jésus crucifié, qui a été le scandale du monde et qui a paru ignorance et folie aux philosophes du siècle, pour confondre l'arrogance humaine est devenu le plus haut point de notre sagesse.

Ah ! que l'admirable Bernard s'était avancé dans cette sagesse ! Il était toujours au pied de la croix, lisant, contemplant et étudiant ce grand livre. Ce livre fut son premier alphabet dans sa tendre enfance : ce même livre fut tout son conseil dans sa sage et vénérable vieillesse. Il en baisait les sacrés caractères; je veux dire ces aimables blessures, qu'il considérait comme étant encore toutes fraîches et toutes vermeilles, et teintes de ce sang précieux qui est notre prix et notre breuvage. Il disait avec l'apôtre saint Paul (I Cor., I, 20) : Que les sages du monde se glorifient, les uns de la connaissance des astres, et les autres des éléments; ceux-là de l'histoire ancienne et moderne , et ceux-ci de la politique ; qu'ils se vantent, tant qu'il leur plaira , de leurs inutiles curiosités : pour moi, si Dieu permet que je sache Jésus crucifié, ma science sera parfaite et mes désirs seront accomplis. C'est tout ce que savait saint Bernard; et comme l'on ne prêche que ce que l'on sait, lui qui ne savait que la croix ne prêchait aussi que la croix.

La science de la croix fait les chrétiens; la prédication de la croix produit les apôtres : c'est pourquoi saint Paul, qui se glorifie de ne savoir que Jésus crucifié, publie ailleurs hautement qu'il ne prêche que Jésus crucifié (I Cor., I, 23). Ainsi faisait le dévot saint Bernard. Je vous le ferai voir en particulier et dans sa cellule étudiant la croix de Jésus, afin que vous respectiez la vertu de ce bon et parfait chrétien ; mais après, je vous le représenterai dans les chaires et dans les fonctions ecclésiastiques, prêchant et annonçant la croix de Jésus, afin que vous glorifiiez Dieu qui nous a envoyé cet apôtre. Vous verrez donc, mes Frères, la vie chrétienne et la vie apostolique de saint Bernard, fondées l'une et l'autre sur la science de notre Maître crucifié : c'est le sujet de cet entretien. Il est simple , je vous l'avoue ; mais je bénirai cette simplicité , si dans la croix de Jésus je puis vous montrer l'origine des admirables qualités du pieux Bernard : c'est ce que j'attends de la grâce du Saint-Esprit, si vous vous rendez soumis et attentifs à sa sainte parole. Commençons avec l'assistance divine, et entrons dans la première partie.


vers 1655, 311 X 249, Madrid, musée du Prado


PREMIER POINT.

Si j'ai été assez heureux pour vous faire entendre ce que je viens de vous dire, vous devez avoir remarqué que le Sauveur pendu à la croix nous enseigne le mépris du monde d'une manière très-puissante et très-efficace. Car si Jésus crucifié est le Fils et les délices du Père, s'il est son unique et son bien-aimé, et le seul objet de sa complaisance ; si d'ailleurs, selon notre façon de juger des choses, il est de tous les mortels le plus abandonné et le plus misérable, le plus grand selon Dieu et le plus méprisable selon les hommes : qui ne voit combien nous sommes trompés dans l'estime que nous faisons des biens et des maux, et que les choses qui ont parmi nous l'applaudissement et la vogue sont les dernières et les plus abjectes? Et c'est ce qui inspire, jusqu'au fond de l’âme , le mépris du monde et des vanités à ceux qui sont sa vans dans la croix du Sauveur Jésus, où la pompe et les fausses voluptés de Ja terre ont été éternellement condamnées. C'est pourquoi l'apôtre saint Paul considérant Jésus-Christ sur ce bois infâme : Ah ! dit-il, « Je suis crucifié avec mon bon Maître. » Je le vois, je le vois sur la croix, dépouillé de tous les biens que nous estimons, accablé à l'extrémité de tout ce qui nous afflige et qui nous effraie. Moi qui le crois la sagesse même, j'estime ce qu'il estime; et dédaignant ce qu'il a dédaigné, je me crucifie avec lui et rejette de tout mon cœur les choses qu'il a rejetées : Christo confixus sum cruci (Galat., II, 19).

Tel est le sentiment d'un vrai chrétien ; mais que cette vérité est dure à nos sens! Qui la pourra comprendre, fidèles, si Jésus même ne l'imprime en nos cœurs ? C'est ainsi qu'il se plaît à nous commander des choses auxquelles toute la nature répugne, afin de faire éclater sa puissance dans notre faiblesse : et pour animer nos courages, il nous propose des personnes choisies, à qui sa grâce a rendu aisé ce qui nous paraissait impossible. Or, parmi les hommes illustres dont l'exemple enflamme nos espérances et confond notre lâcheté, il faut avouer que l'admirable Bernard tient un rang très-considérable. Un gentilhomme, d'une race illustre, qui voit sa maison en crédit et ses proches dans les emplois importants ; à qui sa naissance, son esprit, ses richesses promettent une belle fortune, à l'âge de vingt-deux ans renoncer au monde avec autant de détachement que le fit saint Bernard, vous semble-t-il, chrétiens, que ce soit un effet médiocre de la toute-puissance divine? S'il l'eût fait dans un âge plus avancé, peut-être que le dégoût, l'embarras, les ennuis et les inquiétudes qui se rencontrent dans les affaires, l'auraient pu porter à ce changement. S’il eût pris cette résolution dans une jeunesse plus tendre, la victoire eût été médiocre dans un temps où à peine nous nous sentons et où les passions ne sont pas encore nées. Mais Dieu a choisi saint Bernard, afin de nous faire paraître le triomphe de la croix sur les vanités, dans les circonstances les plus remarquables que nous ayons jamais vues en aucune histoire.

Vous dirai-je en ce lieu ce que c'est qu'un jeune homme de vingt-deux ans? Quelle ardeur, quelle impatience, quelle impétuosité de désirs! Cette force, cette vigueur, ce sang chaud et bouillant, semblable à un vin fumeux, ne leur permet rien de rassis ni de modéré. Dans les âges suivants on commence à prendre son pli, les passions s'appliquent à quelques objets, et alors celle qui domine ralentit du moins la fureur des autres : au lieu que cette verte jeunesse n'ayant rien encore de fixe ni d'arrêté, en cela même qu'elle n'a point de passion dominante par-dessus les autres, elle est emportée, elle est agitée tour à tour de toutes les tempêtes des passions avec une incroyable violence. Là les folles amours; là le luxe, l'ambition et le vain désir de paraître exercent leur empire sans résistance. Tout s'y fait par une chaleur inconsidérée; et comment accoutumer à la règle, à la solitude, à la discipline, cet âge qui ne se plaît que dans le mouvement et dans le désordre, qui n'est presque jamais dans une action composée, « et qui n'a honte que de la modération et de la pudeur? » Et pudet non esse impudentem (S. August., Confess., lib. II, cap. IX).

Certes quand nous nous voyons penchants sur le retour de notre âge, que nous comptons déjà une longue suite de nos ans écoulés, que nos forces se diminuent et que le passé occupant la partie la plus considérable de notre vie, nous ne tenons plus au monde que par un avenir incertain : ah! le présent ne nous touche plus guère. Mais la jeunesse qui ne songe pas que rien lui soit encore échappé, qui sent sa vigueur entière et présente, ne songe aussi qu'au présent et y attache toutes ses pensées. Dites-moi, je vous prie, celui qui croit avoir le présent tellement à soi, quand est-ce qu'il s'adonnera aux pensées sérieuses de l'avenir? Quelle apparence de quitter le monde, dans un âge où il ne nous présente rien que de plaisant? Nous voyons toutes choses selon la disposition où nous sommes : de sorte que la jeunesse qui semble n'être formée que pour la joie et pour les plaisirs, ah ! Elle ne trouve rien de fâcheux; tout lui rit, tout lui applaudit. Elle n'a point encore d'expérience des maux du monde, ni des traverses qui nous arrivent : de là vient qu'elle s'imagine qu'il n'y a point de dégoût, de disgrâce pour elle. Comme elle se sent forte e! vigoureuse, elle bannit la crainte et tend les voiles de toutes parts à l'espérance qui l'enfle et qui la conduit.

Vous le savez, fidèles, de toutes les passions la plus charmante, c'est l'espérance. C'est elle qui nous entretient et qui nous nourrit, qui adoucit toutes les amertumes de la vie ; et souvent nous quitterions des biens effectifs, plutôt que de renoncer à nos espérances. Mais la jeunesse téméraire et malavisée, qui présume toujours beaucoup à cause qu'elle a peu expérimenté, ne voyant point de difficultés dans les choses, c'est là que l'espérance est la plus véhémente et la plus hardie : si bien que les jeunes gens enivrés de leurs espérances, croient tenir tout ce qu'ils poursuivent ; toutes leurs imaginations leur paraissent des réalités. Ravis d'une certaine douceur de leurs prétentions infinies, ils s'imagineraient perdre infiniment, s'ils se départaient de leurs grands desseins, surtout les personnes de condition, qui étant élevées dans un certain esprit de grandeur et bâtissant toujours sur les honneurs de leur maison et de leurs ancêtres, se persuadent facilement qu'il n'y a rien à quoi ils ne puissent prétendre.

Figurez-vous maintenant le jeune Bernard nourri en homme de condition, qui avait la civilité comme naturelle, l'esprit poli par les bonnes lettres , la représentation belle et aimable, l'humeur accommodante, les mœurs douces et agréables : ah ! que de puissants liens pour demeurer attaché à la terre ! Chacun pousse de telles personnes : on les vante, on les loue ; on pense leur donner du courage, et on leur inspire l'ambition. Je sais que sa pieuse mère l'entretenait souvent du mépris du monde; mais, disons la vente, cet âge ordinairement indiscret n'est pas capable de ces bons conseils. Les avis de leurs compagnons et de leurs égaux, qui ne croient rien de si sage qu'eux, l'emportent pardessus ceux des païens.

Triomphez, Seigneur, triomphez de tous les attraits de ce monde trompeur; et faites voir au jeune Bernard, comme vous le fîtes voir à saint Paul (Act., IX, 16), ce qu'il faut qu'il endure pour votre service. Déjà vous lui avez inspiré, avec une tendre dévotion pour Marie, un généreux amour de la pureté : déjà il a méprisé des caresses les plus dangereuses, dans des rencontres que l'honnêteté ne me permet pas de dire en cette audience : déjà votre grâce lui a fait chercher un bain et un rafraîchissement salutaire dans les neiges et dans les étangs glacés, où son intégrité attaquée s'est fait un rempart contre les molles délices du siècle. Son regard imprime de la modestie: il retient jusqu'à ses yeux, parce qu'il a appris de votre Evangile (Matth., V, 28) et de votre Apôtre (II Petr., II, 14) qu'il y a des yeux adultères. Dans un courage qui passe l'homme, on lui voit peintes sur le visage la honte et la retenue d'une fille honnête et pudique. Abus, Seigneur, achevez en la personne de ce saint jeune homme le grand ouvrage de votre grâce.

Et en effet le voyez-vous, chrétiens, comme il est rêveur et pensif; de quelle sorte il fuit le grand monde, devenu extraordinairement amoureux du secret et de la solitude? Là il s'entretient doucement de telles ou de semblables pensées : Bernard, que prétends-tu dans le monde? Y vois-tu quelque chose qui te satisfasse? Les fausses voluptés, après lesquelles les mortels ignorants courent d'une telle fureur, qu'ont-elles après tout qu'une illusion de peu de durée? Sitôt que cette première ardeur qui leur donne tout leur agrément a été un peu ralentie par le temps, leurs plus violents sectateurs s'étonnent le plus souvent de s'être si fort travaillés pour rien. L'âge et l'expérience nous font voir combien sont vaines les choses que nous avions le plus désirées : et encore ces plaisirs tels quels, combien sont-ils rares dans la vie ! Quelle joie peut-on ressentir où la douleur ne se jette comme à la traverse? Et s'il nous fallait retrancher de nos jours tous ceux que nous avons mal passés, même selon les maximes du monde, pourrions-nous bien trouver en toute la vie de quoi faire trois ou quatre mois ? Mais accordons aux fols amateurs du siècle, que ce qu'ils aiment est considérable : combien dure cette félicité ? Elle fuit, elle fuit comme un fantôme, qui nous ayant donné quelque espèce de contentement pendant qu'il demeure avec nous, ne nous laisse en nous quittant que du trouble.

Bernard, Bernard, disait-il, cette verte jeunesse ne durera pas toujours : cette heure fatale viendra, qui tranchera toutes les espérances trompeuses par une irrévocable sentence : la vie nous manquera comme un faux ami au milieu de nos entreprises. Là tous nos beaux desseins tomberont par terre; là s'évanouiront toutes nos pensées. Les riches de la terre, qui durant cette vie jouissant de la tromperie d'un songe agréable s'imaginent avoir de grands biens, s'éveillant tout à coup dans ce grand jour de l'éternité, seront tout étonnés de se trouver les mains vides. La mort, cette fatale ennemie, entraînera avec elle fous nos plaisirs et tous nos honneurs dans l'oubli et dans le néant. Hélas ! on ne parle que de passer le temps. Le temps passe en effet, et nous passons avec lui; et ce qui passe à mon égard, par le moyen du temps qui s'écoule, entre dans l'éternité qui ne passe pas; et tout se ramasse dans le trésor de la science divine qui subsiste toujours. O Dieu éternel, quel sera notre étonnement lorsque le Juge sévère qui préside dans l'autre siècle, où celui-ci nous conduit malgré nous, nous représentant en un instant toute notre vie, nous dira d'une voix terrible: Insensés que vous êtes, qui avez tant estimé les plaisirs qui passent, et qui n'avez pas considéré la suite qui ne passe pas!

Allons, concluait Bernard; et puisque notre vie est toujours emportée par le temps qui ne cesse de nous échapper, tâchons d'y attacher quelque chose qui nous demeure : puis retournant à son grand livre qu'il étudioit continuellement avec une douceur incroyable, je veux dire à la croix de Jésus, il se rassasiait de son sang, et avec cette divine liqueur il humait le mépris du monde. Je viens, disait-il, ô mon Maître, je viens nie crucifier avec vous. Je vois que ces yeux si doux, dont un seul regard a fait fondre saint Pierre en larmes, ne rendent plus de lumières : je tiendrai les miens fermés à jamais à la pompe du siècle ; ils n'auront plus de lumières pour les vanités. Cette bouche divine, de laquelle découlaient des fleuves de cette eau vive qui rejaillit jusqu'à la vie éternelle, je vois que la mort l'a fermée : je condamnerai la mienne au silence, et ne l'ouvrirai que pour confesser mes pèches et votre miséricorde. Mon cœur sera de glace pour les vains plaisirs; et comme je ne vois sur tout votre corps aucune partie entière, je veux porter de tous côtés sur moi-même les marques de vos souffrances, afin d'être un jour entièrement revêtu de votre glorieuse résurrection. Enfin je me jetterai à corps perdu sur vous, ô aimable mort, et je mourrai avec vous; je m'envelopperai avec vous dans votre drap mortuaire : aussi bien j'apprends de l'Apôtre (Coloss., II, 12) que nous sommes ensevelis avec vous dans le saint baptême.

Ainsi le pieux Bernard s'enflamme au mépris du monde, comme il est aisé de le recueillir de ses livres. Il ne songe plus qu'à chercher un lieu de retraite et de pénitence : mais comme il ne désire que la rigueur et l'humilité, il ne se jette point dans ces fameux monastères que leur réputation ou leur abondance rend illustres par toute la terre. En ce temps-là un petit nombre de religieux vivaient à Cîteaux sous l'abbé Etienne. L'austérité qui s'y pratiquait les empêchait de s'attirer des imitateurs : mais autant que leur vie était inconnue aux hommes, autant elle était en admiration devant les saints anges. Ils ne se relâchaient pas pour cela, jugeant plus à propos de persister dans leur institut pour l'amour de Dieu que d'y rien changer pour l'amour des hommes. Cette abbaye, maintenant si célèbre, était pour lors inconnue et sans nom. Le bienheureux Bernard, à qui le voisinage donnait quelque connaissance de la vertu de ces saints personnages, embrasse leur règle et leur discipline, ravi d'avoir trouvé tout ensemble la sainteté de vie, l'extrême rigueur de la pénitence et l'obscurité. Là il commença de vivre de telle sorte qu'il fut bientôt en admiration, même à ces anges terrestres; et comme ils le voyaient toujours croître en vertu, il ne fut pas longtemps parmi eux, que tout jeune qu'il était alors ils le jugèrent capable de former les autres, .le laisse les actions éclatantes de ce grand homme ; et pour la confusion de notre mollesse, à la louange de la grâce de Dieu, je vous ferai un tableau de sa pénitence tiré de ses paroles et de ses écrits.

Il avait accoutumé de dire qu'un novice entrant dans le monastère, devait laisser son corps à la porte, et le saint homme en usait ainsi (Vit. S. Bern., lib. I, cap. IV, n. 20). Ses sens étaient tellement mortifiés, qu'il ne voyait plus ce qui se présentait à ses yeux. La longue habitude de mépriser le plaisir du goût avait éteint en lui toute la pointe de la saveur. Il mangeait de toutes choses sans choix; il buvait de l'eau ou de l'huile indifféremment, selon qu'il les avait à'la main. A ceux qui s'effrayaient de la solitude, il leur représentait l'horreur des ténèbres extérieures et ce grincement de dents éternel. Si quelqu'un trou voit trop rude ce long et horrible silence, il les avertissait que s'ils considéraient attentivement l'examen rigoureux que le grand Juge fera des paroles, ils n'auraient pas beaucoup de peine à se taire. Il avait peu de soin de la santé de son corps, et blâmait fort en ce point la grande délicatesse des hommes qui voudraient se rendre immortels, tant le désir qu'ils ont de la vie est désordonné : pour lui, il mettait ses infirmités parmi les exercices de la pénitence. Pour contrecarrer la mollesse du monde, il choisissait d'ordinaire pour sa demeure un air humide et malsain, afin d'être non tant malade que faible: et il estimait qu'un religieux était sain, quand il se portait assez bien pour chanter et psalmodier. Epicure nous apprend, disait-il, à nourrir le corps parmi les plaisirs, et Hippocrate promet de le conserver en bonne santé : pour moi, je suis disciple de Jésus-Christ, qui m'enseigne à mépriser l'un et l'autre. Il voulait que les moines excitassent l'appétit de manger, non parles viandes, mais par les jeûnes; non par la délicatesse de la table, mais par le travail des mains. Le pain dont il usait était si amer, que l'on voyait bien que sa plus grande appréhension était de donner quelque contentement à son corps : cependant pour n'être pas tout à fait dégoûté de son pain d'avoine et de ses légumes, il attendait que la faim les rendît un peu supportables. Il couchait sur la dure; mais pour y dormir disait-il, il attirait le sommeil par les veilles, par la psalmodie de la nuit et par le travail de la journée : de sorte que dans cet homme les fonctions même naturelles étaient exercées non tant par la nature que par la vertu. Quel homme a jamais pu dire avec plus juste raison ce que disait l'apôtre saint Paul (Galat., VI, 14) : « Le monde m'est crucifié, et moi je suis crucifié au monde? » Mihi mundus crucifixus est, et ego mundo.

Ah ! que l'admirable saint Chrysostome fait une excellente réflexion sur ces beaux mots de saint Paul ! Ce ne lui était pas assez, remarque ce saint évêque (De Compunct., lib. II, n. 2), d'avoir dit que le monde était mort pour lui, il faut qu'il ajoute que lui-même est mort au monde. Certes, poursuit ce savant interprète, l'Apôtre considérait que, non-seulement les vivants ont quelques sentiments les uns pour les autres, mais qu'il leur reste encore quelque affection pour les morts; qu'ils en conservent le souvenir, et rendent du moins à leurs corps les honneurs de la sépulture. Tellement que saint Paul, pour nous faire entendre jusqu'à quelle extrémité le fidèle doit se dégager des plaisirs du siècle : Ce n'est pas assez, dit-il, que le commerce soit rompu entre le monde et le chrétien, comme il l'est entre les vivants et les morts; car il peut y rester quelque petite alliance : mais tel qu'est un mort à l'égard d'un mort, tels doivent, être l'un à l'autre le monde et le chrétien.

O terrible raisonnement pour nous autres lâches et efféminés, et qui ne sommes chrétiens que de nom ! Mais le grand saint Bernard l'avait fortement gravé en son cœur. Car ce qui nous fait vivre au monde, c'est l'inclination pour le monde : ce qui fait vivre le monde pour nous, c'est un certain éclat qui nous charme dans les biens sensibles. La mort éteint les inclinations, la mort ternit le lustre de toutes choses. Voyez le plus beau corps du monde : sitôt que l’âme s'est retirée, bien que les linéaments soient presque les mêmes, cette fleur de beauté s'efface et cette bonne grâce s'évanouit. Ainsi le monde n'ayant plus d'appas pour Bernard, et Bernard n'ayant plus aucun sentiment pour le monde, le monde est mort pour lui, et lui il est mort au monde.

Chrétiens, quel sacrifice le pieux Bernard offre à Dieu par ses continuelles mortifications! Son corps est une victime que la charité lui consacre : en l'immolant elle le conserve afin de le pouvoir toujours immoler. Que peut-il présenter de plus agréable au Sauveur Jésus qu'une âme dégoûtée de toute autre chose que de Jésus même ; qui se plaît si fort en Jésus, qu'elle craint de se plaire en autre chose qu'en lui ; qui veut être toujours affligée, jusqu'à ce qu'elle le possède parfaitement? Pour Jésus le pieux Bernard se dépouille de toutes choses, et même, si je l'ose dire, pour Jésus il se dépouille de ses bonnes œuvres.

Et en effet, fidèles, comme les bonnes œuvres n'ont de mérite qu'autant qu'elles viennent de Jésus-Christ, elles perdent leur prix sitôt que nous nous les attribuons à nous-mêmes. Il les faut rendre à celui qui les donne, et c'est encore ce que l'humble Bernard avait appris au pied de la croix. Combien belle, combien chrétienne fut cette parole de l'humble Bernard, lorsqu'étant entré dans de vives appréhensions du terrible jugement de Dieu : Je sais, je sais, dit-il, que je ne mérite point le royaume des bienheureux ; mais Jésus mon Sauveur le possède par deux raisons : il lui appartient par nature et par ses travaux, comme son héritage et comme sa conquête. Ce bon Maître se contente du premier titre, et me cède libéralement le second l. O sentence digne d'un chrétien! Non, vous ne serez pas confondu, ô pieux Bernard, puisque vous appuyez votre espérance sur le fondement de la croix.

Mais, ô Dieu! Comment ne tremblons-nous pas, misérables pécheurs que nous sommes, entendant une telle parole ? Bernard, consommé en vertus, croit n'avoir rien fait pour le ciel; et nous, nous présumons de nous-mêmes, nous croyons avoir beaucoup fait, quand nous nous sommes légèrement acquittés de quelque petit devoir d'une dévotion superficielle. Cependant, ô douleur! L'amour du monde règne en nos cœurs, le seul mot de mortification nous fait horreur. C'est en vain que la justice divine nous frappe et nous menace encore de plus grands malheurs : nous ne laissons pas de courir après les plaisirs, comme s'il nous était possible d'être heureux en ce monde et en l'autre. Mes Frères, que pensez-vous faire, quand vous louez les vertus du grand saint Bernard ? En faisant son éloge, ne prononcez-vous pas votre condamnation?

Certes il n'avait pas un corps de fer ni d'airain : il était sensible aux douleurs et d'une complexion délicate, pour nous apprendre que ce n'est pas le corps qui nous manque, mais plutôt le courage et la foi. Pour condamner tous les âges en sa personne, Dieu a voulu que sa pénitence commençât dès sa tendre jeunesse, et que sa vieillesse la plus décrépite jamais ne la vit relâchée. Vous vous excusez sur vos grands emplois : Bernard était accablé des affaires, non-seulement de son Ordre, mais presque de toute l'Eglise. Il prêchait, il écrivait, il traitait les affaires des Papes et des évêques, des rois et des princes : il négociait pour les grands et pour les petits, ouvrant à tout le monde les entrailles de sa charité; et parmi tant de diverses occupations, il ne modérait point ses austérités, afin que la mollesse de toutes les conditions et de tous les âges fût éternellement condamnée par l'exemple de ce saint homme.

Vous me direz peut-être qu'il n'est pas nécessaire que tout le monde vive comme lui. Mais du moins faut-il considérer, chrétiens, qu'entre les disciples du même Evangile il doit y avoir quelque ressemblance. Si nous prétendons au même paradis où Bernard est maintenant glorieux, comment se peut-il faire qu'il y ait une telle inégalité, une telle contrariété entre ses actions et les nôtres? Par des routes si opposées, espérons-nous parvenir à la même fin, et arriver par les voluptés où il a cru ne pouvoir atteindre que par les souffrances? Si nous n'aspirons pas à cette éminente perfection, du moins devrions-nous imiter quelque chose de sa pénitence. Mais nous nous donnons tout entiers aux folles joies de ce monde ; nous aimons les plaisirs et la bonne chère, la vie commode et voluptueuse; et après cela nous voulons encore être appelés chrétiens! N'appréhendons-nous pas cette terrible sentence du Fils de Dieu : « Malheur à vous qui riez, car vous pleurerez (Luc., VI, 25)? »

Et comment ne comprenons-nous pas que la croix de Jésus doit être gravée jusqu'au plus profond de nos âmes, si nous voulons être chrétiens? C'est pourquoi l'Apôtre nous dit que nous sommes morts, et que notre vie est cachée, et que nous sommes ensevelis avec Jésus-Christ (Coloss., III, 3). Nous entendons peu ce qu'on nous veut dire, si lorsqu'on ne nous parle que de mort et de sépulture, nous ne concevons pas que le Fils de Dieu ne se contente pas de nous demander un changement médiocre. Il faut se changer jusqu'au fond ; et pour faire ce changement, ne nous persuadons pas, chrétiens, qu'une diligence ordinaire suffise. Cependant l'affaire de notre salut est toujours la plus négligée. Toutes les autres choses nous pressent et nous embarrassent : il n'y a que pour le salut que nous sommes froids et languissants; et toutefois le Sauveur nous dit que le royaume des cieux ne peut être pris que de force, et qu'il n'y a que les violents qui l'emportent Matth., XI, 12). O Dieu éternel! S'il faut de la force, s'il faut de la violence, quelle espérance y a-t-il pour nous dans ce bienheureux héritage? Mais je vous laisse sur cette pensée; car je me sens trop faible et trop languissant pour vous en représenter l'importance, et il faudrait pour cela que j'eusse quelque étincelle de ce zèle apostolique de saint Bernard, que nous allons considérer un moment dans la seconde partie.


Jehan Bellegambe, Triptyque du Cellier (vers 1509), New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art. Sainte Humbeline, sœur de Bernard et Jeanne de Boubais, abbesse de l'abbaye de Flines, aux pieds de la Vierge à l'Enfant - Description sur le site du Metropolitan Museum qui accueille l'œuvre. [archive] ; A. G. Pearson «  [archive] Nuns, images, and the ideals of women's monasticism: Two paintings from the Cistercian convent of Flines », Renaissance Quarterly, 22 décembre 2001


SECOND POINT.

Ce qui me reste à vous dire de saint Bernard est si grand et si admirable, que plusieurs discours ne suffiraient pas à vous le faire considérer comme il faut. Toutefois puisque je vous ai promis de vous représenter ce saint homme dans les emplois publics et apostoliques, disons-en quelque chose brièvement, de peur que votre dévotion ne soit frustrée d'une attente si douce. Voulez-vous que nous voyions le commencement de l'apostolat de saint Bernard ? Ce fut sur sa famille qu'il répandit ses premières lumières, commençant dès sa tendre jeunesse à prêcher la croix de Jésus à ses oncles et à ses frères, aux amis, aux voisins, à tous ceux qui fréquentaient la maison de son père. Dès lors il leur parlait de l'éternité avec une telle énergie, qu'il leur laissait je ne sais quoi dans l’âme, qui ne leur permettent pas de se plaire au monde. Son bon oncle Gaudri, homme très-considérable dans le pays, fut le premier disciple de ce cher neveu. Ses aînés, ses cadets, tous se rangeaient sous sa discipline; et Dieu voulut que tous ses frères, après avoir résisté quelque temps, vinssent à lui l'un après l'autre dans les moments marqués par sa Providence. Gui, l'aîné de cette maison, quitta tous les emplois militaires et les douceurs de son nouveau mariage. Tous ensemble ils renoncèrent aux charges qu'ils avaient, ou qu'ils prétendaient dans la guerre ; et ces braves, ces généreux militaires, accoutumés au commandement et à ce noble tumulte des armes, ne dédaignent ni le silence, ni la bassesse, ni l'oisiveté de Citeaux, si saintement occupée. Ils vont commencer de plus beaux combats, où la mort même donne la victoire.

Ces quatre frères allaient ainsi, disant au monde le dernier adieu, accompagnés de plusieurs gentilshommes que Bernard, ce jeune pêcheur, avait pris dans les filets de Jésus. Nivard, le dernier de tous, qu'ils laissaient avec leur bon père pour être le support de sa caduque vieillesse, les étant venu embrasser : Vous aurez, lui disaient-ils, tous nos biens. Cet enfant, inspiré de Dieu, leur fit cette belle réponse : Eh quoi donc ! Vous prenez le ciel et vous me laissez la terre (Vit. Bern., lib. I, cap. III) ! De cette sorte, il se plaignoit doucement qu'ils le partageaient un peu trop en cadet; et cette sainte pensée fit une telle impression sur son âme, qu'ayant demeuré quelque temps dans le monde, il obtint son congé de son père pour s'aller mettre en possession du même héritage que ses chers frères, non pour le partager, mais pour en jouir en commun avec eux.

Que reste-t-il au pieux Bernard pour voir toute sa famille conquise au Sauveur ? Il avait encore une sœur, qui profitant de la piété de ses frères, vivait dans le luxe et dans la grandeur. Elle les vint un jour visiter, brillante de pierreries, avec une mine hautaine et un équipage superbe. Jamais elle ne put obtenir la satisfaction de les voir, jusqu'à ce qu'elle eût protesté qu'elle suivrait leurs bonnes instructions. Alors le vénérable Bernard s'approcha : Et pourquoi, lui dit-il, veniez-vous troubler le repos de ce monastère, et porter la pompe du diable jusque dans la maison de Dieu ? Quelle honte de vous parer du patrimoine des pauvres (Vit. Bern., lib. I, cap. VI). Il lui fit entendre qu'elle avait grand tort d'orner ainsi de la pourriture; c'est ainsi qu'il appelait notre corps. Ce corps en effet, chrétiens, n'est qu'une masse de boue, que l'on pare d'un léger ornement à cause de l’âme qui y demeure. Car de même que si un roi était contraint par quelque accident de loger en une cabane, on tâcherait de l'orner, et l'on y verrait quelque petit rayon de la magnificence royale : mais c'est toujours une maison de village à qui cet honneur passager, dont elle serait bientôt dépouillée, ne fait point perdre sa qualité. Ainsi cette ordure de notre corps est revêtue de quelque vain éclat, en faveur de l’âme qui doit y habiter quelque temps : toutefois c'est toujours de l'ordure, qui au bout d'un terme bien court retombera dans la première bassesse de sa naturelle corruption. Avoir tant de soin de si peu de chose, et négliger pour elle cette âme faite à l'image de Dieu, d'une nature immortelle et divine, n'est-ce pas une extrême fureur? Ah ! la sœur du pieux Bernard est touchée au vif de cette pensée : elle court aussitôt aux jeûnes, à la retraite, au sac, au monastère, à la pénitence. Cette femme orgueilleuse, domptée par une parole de saint Bernard, suit l'étendard de Jésus avec une fermeté invincible.

Mais comment vous ferai-je voir le comble de la joie du saint homme, et sa dernière conquête dans sa famille? Son bon père, le vieux Tesselin, qui était seul demeuré dans le monde, vient rejoindre ses enfants à Clairvaux. O Dieu éternel! Quelle joie, quelles larmes du père et du fils ! Il n'est pas croyable avec quelle constance ce bon homme avait perdu ses enfants, l'honneur de sa maison et le support de son âge caduc. Par leur retraite il voyait son nom éteint sur la terre; mais il se réjouissait que sa sainte famille allait s'éterniser dans le ciel : et voici que touché de l'Esprit de Dieu, afin que toute la maison lui fût consacrée, ce bon vieillard, sur le déclin de sa vie, devient enfant en Notre-Seigneur Jésus-Christ sous la conduite de son cher fils, qu'il reconnaît désormais pour son père. N'épargnez pas vos soins, ô parents, h élever en la crainte de Dieu les enfants que Dieu vous a confiés : vous ne savez pas quelle récompense cette bonté infinie vous réserve. Ce pieux Tesselin, qui avait si bien nourri les siens dans la piété, en reçoit sur la fin de ses jours une bénédiction abondante, puisque par le moyen de son fils, après une longue vie, il meurt dans une bonne espérance et, si je l'ose dire, dans la paix et dans les embrassements du Sauveur. Ainsi vous voyez que le grand saint Bernard est l'apôtre de sa famille.

Voulez-vous que je passe plus outre, et que je vous fasse voir comme il prêche la croix dans son monastère ? Combien de sortes de gens venaient, de tous les endroits de la terre, faire pénitence sous sa discipline ! Il avait ordinairement sept cents anges, j'appelle ainsi, ces hommes célestes qui servaient Dieu avec lui à Clairvaux, si recueillis, si mortifiés, que le vénérable Guillaume, abbé de Saint-Thierry, nous rapporte que lorsqu'il entrait dans cette abbaye, voyant cet ordre, ce silence, cette retenue, il n'était pas moins saisi de respect que s'il eût approché de nos redoutables autels. Bernard, qui par ses divines prédications les accou-tumoit à la douceur de la croix, les faisait vivre de telle manière, qu'ils ne savaient non plus de nouvelles du monde que si un océan immense les en eût séparés de bien loin : au reste, si ardents dans leurs exercices, si exacts dans leur pénitence, si rigoureux à eux-mêmes, qu'il était aisé déjuger qu'ils ne songeaient pas à vivre, mais à mourir. Cette société de pénitence les unissait entre eux comme frères, avec saint Bernard comme avec un bon père, et saint Bernard avec eux comme avec ses enfants bien-aimés, dans une si parfaite et si cordiale correspondance, qu'il ne se voyait point dans le momie une image plus achevée de l'ancienne Eglise, qui n'a voit qu'une âme et qu'un cœur.

Quelle douleur à cet homme de Dieu, quand il lui fallait quitter ses enfants, qu'il aimait si tendrement dans les entrailles de Jésus-Christ ! Mais Dieu, qui l'avait séparé dès le ventre de sa mère pour renouveler en son temps l'esprit et la prédication des apôtres, le tirait de sa solitude pour le salut des âmes qu'il voulait sauver par son ministère. C'est ici, c'est ici, chrétiens, où il paraissait véritablement un apôtre. Les apôtres allaient par toute la terre, portant l'Evangile de Jésus-Christ jusque dans les nations les plus reculées : et quelle partie du monde n'a pas été éclairée de la prédication de Bernard ? Les apôtres fondaient les églises : et dans ce grand schisme de Pierre Léon combien d'églises rebelles, combien de troupeaux séparés Bernard a-t-il ramenés à l'unité catholique, se rendant ainsi comme le second fondateur des églises? L'Apôtre compte parmi les fonctions de l'apostolat le soin de toutes les églises (II Cor., XI, 28) : et le pieux Bernard ne régissait-il pas presque toutes les églises par les salutaires conseils qu'on lui demandait de toutes les parties de la terre? Il semblait que Dieu ne voulait pas l'attacher à aucune église en particulier, afin qu'il fût le père commun de toutes.

Les signes et les prodiges suivaient la prédication des apôtres : que de prophéties, que de guérisons, que d'événements extraordinaires et surnaturels ont confirmé les prédications de saint Bernard ! Saint Paul se glorifie qu'il prêchait, non point avec une éloquence affectée, ni par des discours de flatterie et de complaisance (Ibid., I, 12), mais seulement qu'il ornait ses sermons de la simplicité et de la vérité : qu'y a-t-il de plus ferme et de plus pénétrant que la simplicité de Bernard, qui captive tout entendement au service de la foi de Jésus? Lorsque les apôtres prêchaient Jésus-Christ, une ardeur céleste les transportait et paraissait tout visiblement dans la véhémence de leur action ; ce qui fait dire à l'apôtre saint Paul qu'il agissait hardiment en Notre-Seigneur (I Thess., II, 2) et que sa prédication était accompagnée de la démonstration de l'Esprit (I Cor., II, 4). Ainsi paraissait le zélé Bernard, qui prêchant aux Allemands dans une langue qui leur était inconnue, ne laissait pas de les émouvoir, a cause qu'il leur parlait comme un homme venu du ciel, jaloux de l'honneur de Jésus.

Une des choses qui était autant admirable dans les apôtres, c'était de voir en des personnes si viles en apparence cette autorité magistrale, cette censure généreuse qu'ils exerçaient sur les mœurs, cette puissance dont ils usaient pour édifier, non pour détruire. C'est pourquoi l'Apôtre, formant Timothée au ministère de la parole : « Prends garde, lui dit-il, que personne ne te méprise : » Nemo te contemnat (I Timoth., IV, 12). Dieu avait imprimé sur le front du vénérable Bernard une majesté si terrible pour les impies, qu'enfin ils étaient contraints de fléchir : témoins ce violent prince d'Aquitaine et tant d'autres, dont ses seules paroles ont souvent désarmé la fureur.

Mais ce qui était de plus divin dans les saints apôtres, c'était cette charité pour ceux qu'ils prêchaient. Ils étaient pères pour la conduite, et mères pour la tendresse, et nourrices pour la douceur : saint Paul prend toutes ces qualités. Ils reprenaient, ils avertissaient opportunément, importunément, tantôt avec une sincère douceur, tantôt avec une sainte colère, avec des larmes , avec des reproches : ils prenaient mille formes différentes, et toujours la même charité dominait; ils bégayaient avec les enfants, ils parlaient avec les hommes. Juif aux Juifs, gentil aux Gentils, « tout à tous, disait l'apôtre saint Paul, afin de les gagner tous : » Omnibus omnia factus sum, ut omnes facerem salvos (I Cor., IX, 22). Voyez les écrits de l'admirable Bernard : vous y verrez les mêmes mouvements et la même charité apostolique. Quel homme a compati avec plus de tendresse aux faibles, et aux misérables, et aux ignorants? Il ne dédaignait ni les plus pauvres, ni les plus abjects. Quel autre a repris plus hardiment les mœurs dépravées de son siècle ? Il n'épargnait ni les princes, ni les potentats, ni les évêques, ni les cardinaux, ni les Papes. Autant qu'il respectait leur degré, autant a-t-il quelquefois repris leur personne, avec un si juste tempérament de charité, que sans être ni lâche, ni emporté, il avait toute la douceur de la complaisance et toute la vigueur d'une liberté vraiment chrétienne.

Bel exemple pour les réformateurs de ces derniers siècles ! Si leur arrogance insupportable et trop visible leur eût permis de traiter les choses avec une pareille modération, ils auraient blâmé les mauvaises mœurs sans rompre la communion, et réprimé les vices sans violer l'autorité légitime. Mais le nom de chef de parti lésa trop flattés : poussés d'un vain désir de paraître, leur éloquence s'est débordée en invectives sanglantes ; elle n'a que du fiel et de la colère. Ils n'ont pas été vigoureux, mais fiers, emportés et méprisants : de là vient qu'ils ont fait le schisme, et n'ont pas apporté la réformation. Il fallait pour un tel dessein le courage et l'humilité de Bernard. Il était vénérable à tous, à cause qu'on le voyait et libre et modeste, également ferme et respectueux ; c'est ce qui lui donnait une si grande autorité dans le monde. S'élevait-il quelque schisme ou quelque doctrine suspecte, les évêques déféraient tout à l'autorité de Bernard. Y avait-il des querelles parmi les princes, Bernard était aussitôt le médiateur.

Puissante ville de Metz, son entremise t'a été autrefois extrêmement favorable. O belle et noble cité ! il y a longtemps que tu as été enviée. Ta situation trop importante t'a presque toujours exposée en proie : souvent tu as été réduite à la dernière extrémité de misères ; mais Dieu de temps en temps t'a envoyé de bons protecteurs. Les princes tes voisins avoient conjuré ta ruine ; tes bons citoyens avoient été défaits dans une grande bataille ; tes ennemis étaient enflés de leur bon succès, et toi enflammée du désir de vengeance : tout se préparait à une guerre cruelle, si le bon Hillin, archevêque de Trêves, n'eût cherché un charitable pacificateur. Ce fut le pieux Bernard, qui épuisé de forces par ses longues austérités et ses travaux sans nombre, attendait la dernière heure à Clairvaux. Mais quelle faiblesse eût été capable de ralentir l'ardeur de sa charité? Il surmonte la maladie pour se rendre promptement dans tes murs ; niais il ne pouvait surmonter l'animosité des esprits extraordinairement échauffés. Chacun courait aux armes avec une fureur incroyable : les armées étaient en vue et prêtes de donner. La charité, qui ne se désespère jamais, presse le vénérable Bernard : il parle, il prie, il conjure qu’on épargne le sang chrétien et le prix du sang de Jésus. Ces âmes de fer se laissent fléchir ; les ennemis deviennent des frères ; tous détestent leur aveugle fureur, et d'un commun accord ils vénèrent l'auteur d'un si grand miracle.

O ville si fidèle et si bonne, ne veux-tu pas honorer ton libérateur? Mais, fidèles, quels honneurs lui pourrons-nous rendre? Certes on ne saurait honorer les Saints, sinon en imitant leurs vertus : sans cela nos louanges leur sont à charge, et nous sont pernicieuses à nous-mêmes. Fidèles, que pensons-nous faire, quand nous louons les vertus du grand saint Bernard ? O Dieu de nos cœurs, quelle indignité! Cet innocent a fait une pénitence si longue ; et nous criminels, nous ne voulons pas la faire ! La pénitence autrefois tenait un grand rang dans l'Eglise : je ne sais dans quel coin du monde elle s'est maintenant retirée. Autrefois ceux qui scandalisaient l'Eglise par leurs désordres étaient tenus comme des gentils et des publicains : maintenant tout le monde leur applaudit. On ne les eût autrefois reçus à la communion des mystères qu'après une longue satisfaction et une grande épreuve de pénitence : maintenant ils entrent jusqu'au sanctuaire ! Autrefois ceux qui par des péchés mortels avoient foulé aux pieds le sang de Jésus, n'osaient même regarder les autels où on le distribue aux fidèles, si auparavant ils ne s'étaient purgés par des larmes, par des jeûnes et par des aumônes. Ils croyaient être obligés de venger eux-mêmes leur ingratitude, de peur que Dieu ne la vengeât dans son implacable fureur : après avoir pris des plaisirs illicites, ils ne pensaient pas pouvoir obtenir miséricorde, s'ils ne se privoient de ceux qui nous sont permis

Ainsi vivaient nos pères dans le temps où la piété fleurissait dans l'Eglise de Dieu. Pensons-nous que les flammes de l'enfer aient perdu depuis ce temps-là leur intolérable ardeur, à cause que notre froideur a contraint l'Eglise de relâcher l'ancienne rigueur de sa discipline, à cause que la vigueur ecclésiastique est énervée : pensons-nous que ce Dieu jaloux, qui punit si rudement les péchés, en soit pour cela moins sévère, ou qu'il nous soit plus doux, parce que les iniquités se sont augmentées? Vous voyez combien ce sentiment serait ridicule. Toutefois, comme si nous en étions persuadés, au lieu de songer à la pénitence, nous ne songeons à autre chose qu'à nous enrichir. C'est déjà une dangereuse pensée; car l'Apôtre avertit Timothée « que le désir des richesses est la racine de tous les maux : » Radix omnium malorum est cupiditas (I Timoth., VI, 10) : » encore songeons-nous à nous enrichir par des voies injustes, par des rapines, par des usures, par des voleries. Nous n'avons pas un cœur de chrétiens, parce qu'il est dur à la misère des pauvres. Notre charité est languissante, et nos haines sont irréconciliables. C'est en vain que la justice divine nous frappe et nous menace encore de plusieurs malheurs : nous ne laissons pas de nous donner toujours tout entiers aux folles joies de ce monde (a). Le seul mot de mortification nous fait horreur : nous aimons la débauche, la bonne chère, la vie commode et voluptueuse ; et après cela nous voulons encore être appelés chrétiens ! Nous n'appréhendons pas cette terrible sentence du Fils de Dieu : « Malheur à vous qui riez, car vous pleurerez (Luc., VI, 25) ! » et cette autre : « Le ris est mêlé de douleur, et les pleurs suivent la joie de bien près (Prov., XIV, 13) ; » et celle-ci : « Ils passent leur vie dans les biens, et en un moment ils descendront dans les enfers (Job, XXI, 13). »

Retournons donc, fidèles, retournons à Dieu de tout notre cœur. La pénitence n'est amère que pour un temps ; après, toute son amertume se tourne en une incroyable douceur. Elle mortifie les appétits déréglés, elle fait goûter les plaisirs célestes, elle donne une bonne espérance, elle ouvre les portes du ciel. On attend la miséricorde divine avec une grande consolation, quand on tâche de tout son pouvoir d'apaiser la justice par la pénitence.

O pieux Bernard, ô saint pénitent, impétrez-nous par vos saintes intercessions les larmes de la pénitence, qui vous donnaient une si sainte joie; et afin qu'elle soit renouvelée dans le monde, priez Dieu qu'il enflamme les prédicateurs de l'esprit apostolique qui vous animait. Nous vous demandons encore votre secours et votre médiation au milieu des troubles qui nous agitent. O vous, qui avez tant de fois désarmé les princes qui se préparaient à la guerre, vous voyez que depuis tant d'années tous les fleuves sont teints et que toutes les campagnes fument de toutes parts du sang chrétien! Les chrétiens, qui devraient être des enfants de paix , sont devenus des loups insatiables de sang. La fraternité chrétienne est rompue; et ce qui est de plus pitoyable, c'est que la licence des armes ne cesse d'enrichir l'enfer. Priez Dieu qu'il nous donne la paix, qu'il donne le repos à cette ville que vous avez autrefois chérie ; ou que s'il est écrit dans le livre de ses décrets éternels que nous ne puissions voir la paix en ce monde, qu'il nous la donne à la fin dans le ciel par Notre-Seigneur Jésus-Christ. Amen.

(a) Prêché à Metz, le 20 août 1656.

Le lieu est littéralement désigné dans ces mots, qui commencent la péroraison : «Puissante ville de Metz,... ô belle et noble cité, » etc.

L'époque n'est pas moins clairement révélée par la longueur des détails et par plusieurs locutions surannées. Et si l'on veut des indications plus précises, qu'on lise ce passage qui se trouve aussi dans l'exorde : « O pieux Bernard,... nous vous demandons encore votre secours et votre médiation au milieu des troubles qui nous agitent. O vous, qui avez tant de fois désarmé les princes qui se préparaient à la guerre, vous voyez que depuis tant d'années tous les fleuves sont teints et que toutes les campagnes fument de toutes parts du sang chrétien. » Qui ne reconnaît, dans cette peinture aussi vraie qu'énergique, les calamités, les troubles et les guerres civiles qui désolaient la France en 1656 ?

Le prédicateur avait, aussi bien que ses auditeurs, une affection particulière pour saint Bernard Bossuet chérissait dans le saint fondateur de Citeaux, non-seulement l'ami de Dieu, mais son compatriote; car ils étaient nés, l'un à Dijon, l'autre à trois quarts de lieue de cette ville, au château de Fontaine. Les habitons de Metz vénéraient le grand thaumaturge comme leur libérateur. Au XIIe siècle plusieurs seigneurs, conduits par le comte de Bar, leur faisaient une guerre injuste. Ils prirent les armes pour défendre leur province, leur territoire, leurs demeures; mais ils furent vaincus dans la bataille qui se donna eu 1153 près de Pont-à-Mousson. Appelé par l'archevêque de Trêves, saint Bernard épuisé de filiales, attendant sa dernière heure, accourut et sauva Metz des plus grands malheurs. Voilà le fait que rappelle Bossuet dans un passage dont nous avons déjà cité deux mots : « O puissante ville de Metz ... ô belle et noble cité,… les princes tes voisins avaient conjuré ta ruine, etc. »

Oeuvres complètes de Bossuet. F. Lachat, Paris, Librairie de Louis Vivès Éditeur, rue Delambre 5, 1862

SOURCE : http://www.abbaye-saint-benoit.ch/bossuet/volume012/017.htm

SAINT BERNARD

Quelques hommes ont reçu le don de résumer un siècle en eux. Ces hommes sont rares ; on les compterait sans fatigue. L’un d’eux s’appelait saint Bernard.

Il porta le douzième siècle en lui, et il ne le porta pas sans douleur. Chose remarquable ! les hommes extérieurs, dont la vie se passe dans le tapage du dehors, que Bossuet nomme « L’ensorcellement de la bagatelle, » ces hommes n’ont presque jamais le temps, ni la science, ni le courage, ni la présence d’esprit que réclament ces soins multiples auxquels ils se sont consacrés. Ils périssent avant d’avoir accompli quoi que ce soit ; et après s’être oubliés eux mêmes pour les choses du dehors, ils oublient les choses du dehors pour eux-mêmes. Mais, après s’être oubliés au point de vue des réalités, ils se recherchent et se retrouvent au point de vue des vanités. Voici un homme, au contraire, qui entra dans la vie comme dans un temple, avec recueillement. La mère, avertie avant sa naissance qu'il s’agissait d’un homme extraordinaire, le regarda, avant qu’il fût au monde, comme quelque chose de sacré. L’austérité le précéda, le reçut, l’accompagna, le suivit sur la terre, et quand il íut allé se reposer ailleurs, elle s’établit là où elle vit la trace de ses pas, et demanda asile à ses disciples. Bernard entendait sans entendre, voyait sans voir, mangeait sans goûter. On dit communément qu’il ne distinguait pas le sang du beurre. Il buvait de l’huile au lieu d’eau, Au bout d’un an de noviciat, il ne savait pas si la pièce destinée au dortoir était plate ou voûtée. Il ne savait pas s’il y avait des fenêtres au bout de l’oratoire où il priait tous les jours.

Or, c’est ce même homme, l’auteur du traité sur la Considération, le commentateur du Cantique des Cantiques, le fondateur de l’abbaye de Clairvaux, c’est cet homme intérieur, profond, préoccupé, recueilli, séparé et absorbé, qui fut le plus grand homme d’affaires de son siècle, et l’un des plus grands hommes d’affaires qu’il y ait eu dans tous les siècles. Donoso Cortès disait, il y a quelques années, que s’il avait à traiter avec les hommes du dehors l’affaire la plus épineuse qui fût au monde, il chercherait le plus mystique des hommes, pour conseil et pour directeur. Ce que Donoso Cortès disait i ly a quelques années, saint Bernard le prouvait, il y a quelques siècles, par son exemple. Ce grand absorbé s’occupait de tout et de tous. Il est impossible d’écrire l’histoire de sa vie, sans écrire celle du monde entier pendant sa vie.

La belle traduction de ses oeuvres qui paraît maintenant sous le patronage de Mgr l’Évêque de Versailles est précédée de sa Vie, écrite par le R. P. Théodore Ratisbonne (i). Le titre seul des chapitres suffirait à indiquer l’étonnante multiplicité des affaires où fut engagé celui qui était pourtant plongé dans l’unique nécessaire, comme le poisson dans l’eau. — Vie domestique, vie monastique, vie politique, vie apostolique.

Pour se figurer un peu saint Bernard, il faut interroger tout le douzième siècle, tout le dedans et tout le dehors. Il faut faire le tour du monde, et aller au fond du cloître. Il faut demander à la philosophie ses discussions, à la théologie ses enseignements, à la mystique ses secrets, au monde ses agitations, aux affaires leurs embarras. Il faut tout questionner, les livres et les champs de bataille, les palais des rois, les conciles, les peuples et l’oratoire où priaient les moines, et les champs où les croisades se prêchaient et se faisaient. Il y a dans cette Histoire énorme et compliquée des hommes de toute espèce et des choses de toute espèce. II y a des intrigues, des rivalités, des ambitions, des haines ; il y a aussi des miracles. Il y a des querelles et des solitudes, des minuties et des abîmes. Il y a des cceurs humains remplis de misères fréquentes et de rares hauteurs, et, tout à côté, des esprits pleins de querelles, de subtilités, d’arguments et d’orgueil. C’est un monde très différent du nôtre et qui défie presque l’imagination. Comment se figurer ces multitudes qui, dans ce siècle d’ignorance, pour parler le langage récent, se passionnaient autour de saint Bernard et d’Abeilard, autour des questions les plus ardues, les plus profondes, Ies plus délicates, les moins populaires ?

Parmi les disciples actuels d’Abeilard, disciples légers et inconscients, combien seraient en état d’assister aux discussions qui se soutenaient sans cesse autour de leur maître ? La foi, disait Abeilard, est une opinion. Cette erreur si vulgaire aujourd’hui qu’elle ne semble plus effrayante aux esprits ordinaires, et ne produit sur personne aucun effet bien violent, ébranla, quand elle apparut, les petits et les grands. La société trembla tout entière. Aucune âme vivante ne se désintéressa de l’immense lutte. Une multitude incroyable d’auditeurs de tous pays, de tout âge, de tous rangs, s’empressaient autour des docteurs.

Des milliers d’écoliers suivaient Abeilard à Melun, à Corbeil, à Saint-Victor, à Saint-Denis, sur la Montagne Sainte-Geneviève. Or, il n’y avait pas de chemin de fer ; aucun voyage n’épouvantait ces affamés de parole. Je ne dis pas que cette curiosité fût généralement pure. Qui sait si le désir de trouver l’Église en défaut n’était pas une des forces excitatrices de la multitude ? Qui sait si le rationalisme, presque inconnu, encore jeune, environné de passions, et passion lui-même, n’ébranlait pas, autant et plus que l’amour du vrai, les masses avides ? Quoi qu’il en soit, pou être ainsi attiré, comment donc ce peuple était-il préparé, instruit, travaillé par les choses de l’intelligence ? Les hôtelleries ne contenaient plus les auditeurs : les vivres manquaient.

Les Allemands, les Romains, les Anglais, les Lombards, les Suédois, les Danois venaient grossir les rangs des Parisiens; et si l’on considère la difficulté extrême des communications, leur lenteur, leur danger, on restera étonné devant ce concours bizarre. Ce qui ameutait ainsi les multitudes ne réunirait pas maintenant, en dehors des docteurs convoqués, quatre auditeurs.

Le triomphe de saint Bernard fut d’autant plus beau que le vaincu suivit, parmi la foule, le char du vainqueur. Abeilard devint fidèle. Mais je ne sais si personne a jamais remarqué l’enseignement profond contenu dans cette vie extraordinaire. Si sa parole enseigna tant d’erreurs, son existence enseigna involontairement une vérité très grave. Luí, l’apôtre de la raison, l’apôtre initiateur de la logique humaine ; lui, qui exagéra tous les droits et toutes les puissances du raisonnement; lui-même tomba successivement dans l’esclavage de toutes les passions. Aussi célèbre par sa servitude réelle que par sa fausse indépendance, il tomba dans les plus cruels servages, pendant qu’il voulait secouer pour lui-même et pour les autres le joug sublime et doux en qui réside toute liberté. Il montra jusqu’où descend l’homme qui veut monter par orgueil.

Au même moment saint Bernard, prêchant, soutenant, sauvegardant les droits de la foi, conservait, dans sa plénitude, l’exercice de la raison; et cette raison fidèle grandissait parce qu’elle était soumise. Et saint Bernard, apôtre de la foi, devenait de plus en plus raisonnable. Saint Bernard, apôtre de la soumission, devenait de plus en plus libre. Et toutes ces libertés se donnèrent rendez-vous autour de l’homme qui s’agenouillait. Et tous les esclavages se donnèrent rendez-vous autour de l’homme qui se révoltait.

Abeilard et Arnold sont des types qui semblent appartenir au monde moderne plutôt qu’au moyen-âge, et saint Bernard semble avoir été, malgré le douzième siècle, en rapport avec nous. On dirait que des passions trop pressées, et en avance de six ou sept siècles, se débattaient autour de lui.

Chaque philosophie, dès qu’elle devient indigne de ce nom, proclame que la vérité commence en elle, commence à elle, et commence par elle.

Cependant ces erreurs se rattachent toujours les unes aux autres, et, par ce point comme par tous les autres, elles parodient les vérités. La philosophie allemande a mis au service de l’erreur un système scientifique qui eût pu atteindre, s’il se fût convertí, à une élévation extraordinaire. Mas si nous prenons en elles-mêmes les erreurs de Fichte et celles de Kant, il n’est pas impossible de les rattacher par un lien réel et visible au conceptualisme d’Abeilard.

Presque toutes les disputes et les irritations actuelles s’éveillaient dans le monde. Bernard semble avoir été l’ennemi des erreurs futures : ses victoires empruntent aux circonstances quelque chose de prophétique.

Sa vie politique fut un assaut continuel. Il faut regarder de tous les côtés à la fois pour suivre les mouvements du bras de saint Bernard. Il occupe tous les points de l’histoire sociale du temps où il a vécu. Il est impossible de raconter un épisode quelconque du douzième siècle sans le rencontrer et sans le nommer. Rien ne se faisait sans lui, ríen ne se passait de lui. Toujours en relation avec les savants, les ignorants, les religieux et les criminels, il vivait d’une vie étendue et solennelle, en même temps que d’une vie intime et concentrée. La circonférence de cette vie n’en gênait pas le centre, et le centre n’en gênait la circonférence. Souvent arbitre, à chaque instant prédicateur, conseiller, docteur, écrivain, controversiste, dans toutes les fortunes diverses que lui fit une vie publique pleine d’orages et d’écueils, il resta toujours saint Bernard, saint Bernard le religieux. Le langage qu’il tenait aux princes et aux papes ne pouvait ni le troubler lui-même, ni irriter les autres, parce que c’était toujours l’amour qui dictait, et là où l’amour parle, le respect est toujours présent. L’autorité et la soumission sont les deux caractères de saint Bernard. On sent toujours en lui l’homme qui veut obéir, et, quand il commande, c'est parce que la force des choses amène ce résultat.

Cet infatigable surveillant regardait à la fois de tous côtés, interrogeant tous les horizons, pour savoir d’où venait l’erreur. Il était plein d’yeux, plein d’oreilles, plein de paroles et plein de silence. L’exercice qui consiste à dicter quatre lettres à la fois semble l’ombre et le symbole de l’exercice extérieur dans lequel il vécut, et cet exercice extérieur n’était lui-même que l’ombre et l’écorce de la vie profonde qui venait de son âme. Sa figure apparaît souvent indignée, mais toujours paisible au milieu de ce panorama oû tant de figures apparaissent. La plus grande douleur de sa vie fut probablement l’échec mystérieux de la croisade qu’il avait prêchée, et la trahison de Nicolas, son ami, son secrétaire, le confident de tant de joies, de tant de larmes, de tant de tendresse et de tant de sagesse.

Cet homme, qui attirait à lui les rois et les peuples, ne put retenir celui qui était là, tout près de lui, son intime confident; celui à qui Dieu avait dit tant de secrets n’avait rien prévu de ce malheur étrange; celui qui avait le don des miracles ne put empêcher les désastres que le menteur causa, car le traître est toujours menteur. Quant à la croisade, les mystères se pressent autour de cette catastrophe. La parole et la joie avaient précédé, les miracles avaient confirmé la parole; les désolations, les accusations et les calomnies sont venues au lieu du triomphe. Saint Bernard et les plus sages de ses contemporains ont jeté, du fond de leur détresse, de profonds coups d’oeil sur la part d’incertitude que peut, en certains cas, contenir une promesse divine, et sur les changements que la liberté humaine peut introduire dans les effets de cette promesse. Une menace peut être conjurée par la prière et la pénitence : Ninive est là pour l’attester. Saint Bernard pensa que le changement contraire s’était produit dans la croisade : mille circonstances autorisaient parfaitement le saint et ses amis ou dans cette conjecture ou dans cette certitude.

Le schisme ajouta des douleurs et des déchirements à toutes les douleurs et á tous les déchirements du siècle de saint Bernard et par conséquent de sa vie, car son siècle fut sa vie. La lutte d’Innocent II et de l’antipape fut une des pages les plus terribles de cette histoire troublée. Et quand Eugène III, son ancien ami, monta dans la chaire de saint Pierre, saint Bernard lui adressa, dans son livre de la Considération, ces beaux enseignements où la liberté du docteur et la soumission du fils semblent ne plus faire qu’une seule vertu. Dans ce conflit de toutes les choses humaines, cet homme, entouré d’évêques, de rois, d’abbayes et de conciles, ce chargé d’affaires qu’avait choisi l’humanité, saint Bernard, trouva tout le temps nécessaire pour suivre, examiner, consoler, encourager, admirer sainte Hildegarde. Cette femme étonnante, qui vivait en dehors des lois naturelles, entr'ouvrant l’avenir par des regards chargés de mystères, obligée de sortir de son silence pour enseigner presque malgré elle, fit, comme toutes les personnes et les choses du douzième siècle : elle jeta dans les bras de saint Bernard le fardeau de ses préoccupations. Elle donna sa confiance à celui qui possédait la confiance universelle. Elle écrivit á Eugène III, á Anastase IV, á Adrien IV et á Alexandre III, souverains pontifes, aux empereurs Conrad III et Frédéric Ier , aux évêques de Bamberg, de Spire, de Worms, de Constance, de Liège, de Maestricht, de Prague, et à l’évêque de Jérusalem ; cependant elle était plongée au plus profond de son âme dans la contemplation des mystères. Quel était le lieu de ses visions ? Ce n’était pas, si l’on ose ainsi parler, le lieu ordinaire des visions,

« Ayant les yeux ouverts, disait-elle, et parfaitement éveillée, je les vois clairement jour et nuit, dans le plus profond de mon âme. »

Elle semblait participer, comme son ami et son confident saint Bernard, aux doubles faveurs de la vie contemplative et active.

Personne ne pensait encore, à cette époque, que les âmes pures et éclairées ne sont bonnes à ríen : cette découverte est récente.

Pendant que sainte Hildegarde, pleine d’affaires et de visions, consultait saint Bernard, celui-ci, entouré et occupé, consulté et accaparé par Godefroy, évêque de Chartres; Manassé, évêque de Meaux ; Guillaume, de Châlons; Gaudry, de Dôle ; Hildebert, du Mans ; Aubry, de Bourges ; Gosselin, de Soissons ; Hugues, de Mâcon; Milon, de Thérouanne ; Hirré, d’Arras ; Albéron, de Trèves ; Samson, de Reims ; Geoffroy, de Bordeaux ; Arnoult, de Lisieux, etc., etc.; Saint Bernard, au milieu de ces personnages et de leurs affaires, voyageait tout un jour au bord d’un lac, et ne savait pas le soir de quoi parlaient ses compagnons quand ils parlaient du lac qu’ils avaient longé. Saint Bernard n’avait ríen vu. Le grand préoccupé était digne d’être consulté par sainte Hildegarde, et elle était digne de le consulter. Tous deux semblaient multiplier le temps, menant de front les choses du dedans et celles du dehors, affaires et miracles.

II

Les ouvrages de saint Bernard traitent à peu près de toutes choses. L’abbé de Clairvaux n’est pas un homme spécial : il parle de tout, et c’est la circonstance qui l’inspire. IL va au plus pressé. Un roi, un évêque, un personnage quelconque a besoin de conseil : saint Bernard lui écrit. Une erreur s’élève, elle menace l’Église : saint Bernard fait un traité, une apologie. La controverse tient une place immense dans son ceuvre. La situation s'apaise-t-elle ? laisse-t-elle au terrible lutteur le temps de respirer ? Il se livre à la contemplation et nous communique les secrets qu’il reçoit. Quand saint Bernard prend le loisir de chanter la paix, c’est que le monde se calme. Il fait face à toutes les nécessités, mais il n’oublie pas la nécessitée elle-même, et ses heures de repos donnent au monde un Commentaire du Cantique des Cantiques. Dans l’immense diversité des oeuvres de saint Bernard, l’unité qui relie toutes choses entre elles, c’est l’étude de 1’Écriture sainte. En paix ou en guerre, saint Bernard s’appuie toujours sur elle. Elle est l’instrument de ses combats et la joie de ses victoires ; elle est son arme et son repos. En guerre, il la cite ; en paix, il la chante. Toutes choses le regardent, et il regarde toutes choses. Mais c’est à travers un prisme sans défaut ni mensonge. Dès qu’il abandonne un instant le champ de bataille, dès que l’argumentateur a la permission de devenir tendre, saint Bernard se tourne vers l’amour, et se repose dans sa recherche. Ces deux mots qui s’excluraient, si la recherche était inquiète et malsaine, hétérodoxe ou maladive, s’appellent et se répondent, puisqu’il s’agit de la recherche recommandée et bénie, de la recherche ardente et pure, qui demande à la prière et à l’amour la paix désirée du Dieu de Jacob. Le traité de la Considération est un bel exemple de cette paix et de cette poursuite. Après avoir contemplé les choses qui sont au-dessous de 1’homme, celles qui sont au-dessus, et l’homme lui-même; après avoir interrogé la tradition, la méditation et la prière; après avoir étudié sous plusieurs Pères la fameuse parole où saint Paul célèbre la longueur, la largeur, la hauteur et la profondeur de Dieu, saint Bernard conclut ainsi :

« Il nous resterait, dit-il, à chercher encore Celui que nous n’avons encore trouvé que d’une manière imparfaite. Celui qu’on ne peut trop chercher. Mais c’est peut-être à la prière plutôt qu’à la discussion de le chercher comme il convient, et de le découvrir sans peine. Finissons donc ici ce livre, mais ne cessons pas de chercher. »

Voilà bien la vie fidèle à sa loi. Les uns boivent un peu, et, trop tôt désaltérés, cessent d’avoir soif. Ceux-là manquent d’amour, car l’amour ne dit jamais : « Assez ! » D’autres ont soif, mais refusent de boire ; et, quand on leur indique la source, ils se détournent au lieu de courir. Saint Bernard trouve et cherche, et trouve encore ; et chaque découverte est le point de départ d’une recherche plus profonde.

Un caractère distinctif des saints, c’est un attrait particulier pour la Vierge Marie. Ce caractère est universel : c’est une loi sans exception. Mais cette unanimité se manifeste par les formes les plus différentes ; elle commence à l’Église, et rend hommage au culte de la Mère de Dieu dans l’authenticité de son origine ; elle va grandissant et s’accentuant de siècle en siècle; elle parle quelquefois par une voix particulièrement douce comme celle de saint François d’Assise, ou particulièrement sévère comme celle de saint Bernard. Mais, en respectant toutes les individualités, elle reste ce qu'elle est, universelle et absolue.

L’Écriture est si profonde que chacune de ses paroles épuiserait l’intelligence humaine, avant d’avoir laissé échapper tout ce qu’elle contient. Saint Bernard est un de ceux qui trouvent au fond d'elle la manne cachée. Après avoir cité les paroles de Gabriel à Marie, l’abbé de Clairvaux fait cette réflexion profonde :

« Je remarque que l’ange ne dit pas « aucune œuvre » mais « aucune parole n’est impossible à Dieu. » S’exprime-t-il ainsi pour montrer que, tandís que les hommes disent facilement ce qu’ils veulent, sans pouvoir le faire, Dieu opère aussi et même plus facilement ce qu’eux sont à peine capables de dire ? Je parlerai plus clairement encore. S’il était aussi aisé aux hommes de réaliser leur volonté que de la formuler, ríen ne leur serait impossible. Mais (et c’est un proverbe ancien et vulgaire) dire et faire sont deux pour nous, mais non pour Dieu. En Dieu seul l’Action est identique à la Parole et la Parole à la Volonté : par conséquent, aucune parole n’est impossible à Dieu. Par exemple, les prophètes ont pu prévoir et prédire qu’une vierge et une femme stérile concevraient et enfanteraient : ont-ils pu faire qu’elles conçussent et enfantassent ! Mais Dieu, qui leur a donné la puissance de prévoir, avec la même facilité qu’il a pu prédire alors, par leur organe, ce qu’il a voulu, a pu, maintenant, dès qu’il le voulait, accomplir par lui-même ses promesses. En Dieu la parole ne diffère pas de l’intention, car il est Vérité. L’Action n’est pas différente de la Parole ; car il est Puissance. Le mode ne diffère pas du fait; car il est Sagesse. C’est pourquoi aucune parole n’est impossible á Dieu. »

Ces lignes de saint Bernard pourraient servir de préface à un ouvrage sur le langage de l’Écriture. Ce langage est une étrange et merveilleuse démonstration de divinité. Quand c’est l’homme qui parle, il parle pour la vraisemblance ; quand c’est l’Esprit-Saint qui parle, il parle pour la vérité.

Quand c’est l’homme qui parle, il vise à l’oreille de l’homme et, ménage á l’auditeur des étonnements. Quand c’est l’Esprit-Saint qui parle, il vise à la vérité nue et, sans souci de plaire ou de déplaire, il dit la chose comme elle est. Que cette chose semble petite ou grande, simple ou impossible, naïve ou gigantesque, il la dit comme elle est, avec la même paix, avec la même voix, avec la même simplicité, la même certitude et la même profondeur.

L’absence totale d’adresse et de complaisance est au-dessus des forces de l’homme. Il y a une manifestation de divinité dans l’audace de l’Écriture.

Un autre caractère distinctif des saints, c’est une faculté d’assimilation par laquelle ils s’assimilent la parole divine, la présentent aux hommes comme si elle sortait d’eux-mêmes élaborée par eux, préparée par eux, et ayant subi au fond de leur âme une préparation qui pourra mieux faire sentir à leur siècle et au genre humain quelle est la saveur des paroles de Dieu.

Saint Bernard et saint Jean de la Croix, qui se ressemblent si peu, sont tous deux supérieurement pourvus de ce caractère distinctif. Tous deux ont commenté des cantiques et balbutié l’union divine. Mais le même instrument, touché par l’un et par l’autre, a rendu des accords différents.

Saint Bernard est plus expansif, plus rayonnant, plus tendre. Saint Jean de la Croix est plus profond, plus caché, plus central. Saint Bernard parle plus aux hommes. Peut-être saint Jean de la Croix parle-t-il plus à Dieu. Saint Bernard prêche, même quand il chante. Saint Jean de la Croix songe moins á enseigner les autres qu’á se raconter lui-même, et il dit ce qu’il éprouve, moins préoccupé de l’effet qu’il fera que de la chose qu’il a sentie. Saint Bernard pense encore, parmi les fleurs et les parfums, aux mauvaises odeurs qui viennent du dehors, et le souvenir du danger le suit.

Saint Jean de la Croix, quand il est dans ses grandes solitudes, semble presque aussi tranquille sur l’avenir que sur le présent. Il a l’air de trouver sa sérénité dans sa hauteur, et d’avoir dépassé la région des orages. Le souvenir de la nuit obscure revient à d’autres heures, puis la vive flamme d’amour l’emporte sur ses ailes, et le place, pour quelque temps, dans les demeures où tout est beau.

Cette diversité des touches divines est supérieurement exprimée par saint Bernard, et, non content d’en montrer la pratique, il en donne la théorie.

« Dieu, dit-il, en sa bonté accordait un autre genre de vision á nos pères, qui jouirent si fréquemment, et d’une façon si merveilleuse, de sa présence et de sa familiarité. Ils ne le voyaient pas tel qu’il est, mais tel qu’il daignait se révéler à eux. Ils ne le voyaient pas tous non plus de la même manière, mais, comme dit l’Apôtre, en différentes manières et sous différentes formes, quoiqu’il soit un en lui-même, comme il le déclare à Israël : Le Seigneur votre Dieu est un. Ces visions n’étaient pas communes ; cependant elles se produisaient extérieurement, et s’accomplissaient par des images visibles ou des sons que l’oreille saisissait. Mais il est une vue de Dieu, d’autant plus différente de celle-ci qu’elle se fait intérieurement, comme quand Dieu daigne visiter lui-même une âme, avec un empressement et un amour qui absorbent entièrement ; et voici le signe de l’arrivée de Dieu, comme nous l’apprend celui qui l’a éprouvé : le feu marchera devant lui et embrasera ses ennemis á l’entour. »

Saint Bernard continue :

« Cette âme saura donc que le Seigneur est proche, quand elle se sentira brûlée de ce feu et qu’elle dira avec le prophète : « II m’a envoyé d’en haut un « feu dans mes os, et il m’a instruite, etc., etc. »

Et encore :

« Comme nous dísons que les anciens ont vu son ombre et ses figures, tandis que nous voyons sa lumière briller à nos yeux par la grâce de Jésus-Christ présent dans la chair ; ainsi, relativement à la vie à venir, nous devons avouer que nous ne le voyons que dans une certaine ombre de la vérité, si toutefois nous ne voulons pas contredire ce mot de l’Apôtre : Ce que nous avons maintenant de science et de prophétie est très imparfait. »

La mémoire a, comme l’intelligence, son infídélité et sa fidélité. La mémoire de saint Bernard est singulièrement fidèle. Elle lui présente, à chaque instant, parmi les textes oubliés de l’Écriture, ceux qui mettent en lumière la vérité qu’il exprime. Quoi de plus ordinaire que le conseil qui dit à un homme : « Soumettez-vous 1 » Ce conseil vulgaire peut cependant s’illuminer des lueurs de la Montagne Sainte quand il est lu dans l’Écriture. C’est pourquoi saint Bernard écrit cette phrase très vulgaire, et l’accompagne de cette citation très peu vulgaire :

« Que ceux qui sont décidés à être sages à leurs propres yeux, et à n’écouter ni ordre ni conseil, songent donc à ce qu’ils doivent répondre, non pas à moi, mais à celui qui a dit : C’est une espèce de magie de ne pas vouloir se soumettre et ne pas se rendre à la volonté du Seigneur ; c’est un crime d’idolâtrie. »

C’est Samuel qui parle ainsi á Saül, et c’est saint Bernard qui nous le rappelle,

Saint Bernard, qui est tant de choses, est particulièrement observateur. Les habitudes extérieures, révélatrices des habitudes intérieures, sont saisies par lui avec une finesse rare. Son Traité des divers degrés de l’humilité et de l’orgueil, qui commence par de charmants aveux relatifs à quelque doute et à quelque citation inexacte, continue par des peintures de caractères auxquelles il ne manque, pour être admirées et célèbres, que de n’avoir pas été écrites par un saint.

Le premier degré de l’orgueil est la curiosité. Cette réflexion simple domine ici : « Lucifer avait prévu qu’il régnerait sur les réprouvés ; il n’avait pas prévu qu’il serait réprouvé lui-même. Joseph avait prédit son élévation ; il n’avait pas prévu sa captivité plus prochaine encore. »

Au second degré, la légèreté d’esprit :

« La jalousie le fait sécher d*un coupable dépit, ou sa prétendue excellence le jette en une joie puérile! Vain ici, pécheur là, il est partout superbe. »

Au troisième degré, la joie inepte :

« Il a beau se couvrir la bouche de ses deux poings, on l'entend éternuer bruyamment. »

Il est facile de voir que saint Bernard ne parle pas de l’acte extérieur, et qu’une longue expérience l’introduit dans le secret des choses,

Au quatrième degré, la jactance ;

« Il parlera donc, sinon il crèvera. II est pleín de discours et son esprit est á l’étroit dans ses entrailles. Il prévient les questions, il répond à ce qu’on ne lui demande pas, il fait les demandes et les réponses Il loue le jeûne, recommande les veilles, met au-dessus de tout la prière. Il disserte sur la patience, l’humilité et toutes les autres vertus, avec autant d’abondance que de vanité, etc., etc. Sa jactance se reconnaît à l’abondance des paroles… Évitez la chose et retenez 1c nom. »

Quelle profondeur dans le signe donné ! La jactance se reconnaît au zèle que mettent certains hommes à louer l’humilité et la patience !

Au cinquième degré, la singularité. Voici ce que fait le moine en pareil cas :

« Pendant le repas, il promène les yeux sur les tables, et s’il y voit un religieux manger moins que lui, il se plaint d’être vaincu ; le voilà qui se retranche cruellement ce qu'il avait cru nécessaire de s’accorder, car il craint la perte de sa gloire plus que le tourment de la faim. Il veille au lit et dort au choeur. »

Au sixième degré, l’arrogance.

Saint Bernard la distingue de la jactance par un trait charmant :

« Ce n’est plus en paroles ou par l’étalage des oeuvres qu’il montre sa religion, c’est sincèrement qu’il s’estime le plus saint des hommes. »

Cette sincérité, qui devient le trait constitutif de l’arrogance, est quelque chose d’admirable.

Au septième degré, la présomption :

« Si le moine qui a atteint le septième degré n’est pas élu prieur, le temps venu, il dit que son abbé est jaloux ou a été trompé. »

Au huitième degré, l’homme soutient ses fautes :

« Jusqu’ici l’orgueilleux n’a encore fait que de la pratique, le voilà qui arrive à la théorie. Ce qui est mal lui paraît bien.

Cette gradation est très instructive. Le moment où l’orgueil, après avoir occupé l’âme, gagne l’esprit, est un moment sérieux.

« Quand les choses changent de nom, quand l’homme trouve bien ce qui est mal et mal ce qui est bien, il s’enfonce et plonge dans un péché plus tenace, plus froid, plus lourd, plus difficile à guérir. »

Au neuvième degré, voici la confession simulée. Tout à l’heure, l’homme admirait ses fautes ; le voici qui les exagère et s’accuse outre mesure :

« Alors, dit saint Bernard, on baisse le visage, on se prosterne de corps, on verse, si on peut, quelques larmes. On entrecoupe sa voix de soupirs et ses paroles de gémissements. Loin d’excuser ce qu’on lui reproche, ce religieux exagère sa faute. En l’entendant ajouter lui-même à sa faute une circonstance impossible ou incroyable, vous vous prenez á ne plus croire ce qui vous semblait prouvé. Et ce qui, dans cet aveu, vous paraît faux, vous inspire des doutes sur ce que vous teniez pour certain. En affirmant des torts qu’ils ne veulent pas être crus, ces gens trouvent moyen de se défendre en s’accusant, et de couvrir leur faute en la dévoilant. »

Au dixième degré, la rébellion :

« Celui qui, tout á l’heure, s’accusait sans vérité et sans humilité, à présent jette le masque. Il désobéit ouvertement. »

Une logique merveilleuse, la logíque de l’absurde, préside à toutes ces contradictions. On voit à quel point saint Bernard a suivi et observé l’esprit du mal et ses manifestations contradictoires, qui se ressemblent dans leur principe et se combattent dans leurs effets.

Au onzième degré, voici la liberté du péché Impíus, quum in profundum venerit, contemnit.

« A ce onzième degré, le pécheur plaît aux hommes, parce qu’il a brisé toute entrave. Il entre en des routes qui lui paraissent bonnes et qui aboutissent au mépris de Dieu. Si le moine arrive à ce onzième degré, il quitte le monastère et fait dans le monde ce que la honte et la crainte l’eussent empêché de faire dans le couvent. »

Au douzième degré l’’orgueil, saint Bernard place l’habitude de mal faire:

« Tout à l’heure, cet homme n’avait encore que la licence, le débordement ; mais voilà l’habitude, et tout est consommé ».

Il y a quelque chose de profond dans le choix de ce mot: habitude, adopté par saint Bernard pour signifier le sommet du mal.

« Alors l’orgueilleux n’a plus de préférence: le licite et l’illicite lui sont indifférents. »

Et l’abbé de Clairvaux ajoute :

« Il n'y a que ceux qui ont atteint le dernier degré, soít en haut, soit en bas, qui courent sana obstacle ni fatigue, celui-ci à la mort, celui-là à la vie; l’un avec plus de légèreté, l’autre avec un penchant plus vif ; car la charité donne au premier cette légèreté, et la passion active les penchants de l’autre. L’amour affranchit l’un et l’hébétement l’autre de toute peine. Dans Fun, c’est la perfection de la charité, dans l’autre, la consommation de l’iniquité, qui chasse toute crainte. L’un puise la sécurité dans la vérité, l’autre dans son aveuglement. »

Et saint Bernard se résume ainsi :

« Les six premiers degrés de l’orgueil conduisent dans le mépris des frères, les quatre suivants dans le mépris des supérieurs, et les deux derniers dans le mépris de Dieu. »

Les lettres de saint Bernard contiennent sur ce grand caractère de grandes révélations. Ce qui domine, c’est la fermeté. Une des plus stupides erreurs du monde consiste á croire que la bonté est voisine de la faiblesse. Tout homme qui n’est jamais sévère est deux fois injuste; car, cédant aux mauvais, il frustre les bons. La niaiserie mondaine aime assez cette phrase: « II est bon jusqu’à la faiblesse ; il est si bon qu’il en est bête. » Le monde avoue par là sa profonde ignorance en matière de bonté. La bonté est la chose du monde qui réclame la force la plus invincible et l’énergie la plus indomptable. Tel est le caractère de la bonté de saint Bernard et, avertissant le Souverain Pontife de ne pas prêter l’oreille aux supplicatíons d’un prévaricateur, le saint prononce cette parole, digne d’être méditée:

« De même qu’il est toujours mal de tromper, de même il est mal, le plus souvent, de se laisser tromper par un méchant. »

Voilà la vraie bonté, celle qui est terrible.

Quand il parlait d’un faux pénitent, saint Bernard a dit cette parole redoutable : Ne vous laissez pas toucher !

Mais voici qu’il parle d’un vrai pénitent (il s’agit de frère Philippe). C’est au pape Eugène que le saint écrit:

« Mes armes sont les prières des pauvres, et, de celles-là, j’en ai en abondance. Il faut de toute nécessité que la citadelle de la force, quand même autrement elle serait imprenable, se rende à de telles machines. L’ami de la pauvreté, le père des pauvres, ne repoussera pas les prières des pauvres. Et quels sont ces pauvres?

« Je ne suis pas seul. Je le serais, que peut-être je pourrais tenter encore. Mais tous ceux de vos fils qui sont avec moi, et ceux même qui ne sont pas avec moi, s'unissent à moi dans cette prière. »

Saint Bernard est le même homme que tout à l’heure ; la circonstance seule a changé.

Nous ne saurions trop remercier les traducteurs de l’oeuvre qu’ils ont entreprise. C’est un service à rendre au dix-neuvième siècle que de rapprocher de lui saint Bernard. C’est un labeur fécond : les traducteurs, qui l’ont commencé avec courage, le continuent arec amour.

Ernest HELLO. Physionomies de saints

SOURCE : https://archive.org/stream/PhysionomiesDeSaintsParErnestHello/physionomies%20de%20saints_djvu.txt



Portait de Bernard de Clairvaux dans une lettrine ornant un manuscrit de La Légende dorée, vers 1267-1276.

SAINT BERNARD

Bernard vient de ber, puits, fontaine, et de nard, plante, d'après la Glose sur le Cantique des Cantiques. Humble, d'une nature échauffante et odoriférante. En effet saint Bernard fut échauffé d'un fervent amour ; il fut humble dans ses habitudes et odoriférant par la suavité de sa réputation. Sa vie fut écrite par Guillaume, abbé de Saint-Thierry, compagnon du saint, et par Hernold, abbé de Bonneval *.

Saint Bernard naquit au château de Fontaine, en Bourgogne, de parents aussi nobles que religieux. Son père Técelin était un chevalier plein de valeur et non moins zélé pour Dieu; sa mère s'appelait Aaleth. Elle eut sept enfants, six garçons et une fille; les sept garçons devaient tous être moines et la fille religieuse. Aussitôt qu'elle en avait mis un au monde, elle l’offrait à Dieu de ses propres mains. Elle refusa toujours de faire nourrir ses enfants du lait d'une étrangère, comme si avec le lait maternel, elle dût les remplir de tout ce qui pouvait se trouver de bon dans elle. Quand ils avançaient en âge, tout. le temps qu'elle les eut sous la main, elle les élevait pour le désert plutôt que pour la cour, leur donnant à manger des nourritures communes et des plus grossières, comme s'ils devaient partir d'un instant à l’autre pour la solitude. Etant enceinte de Bernard, son troisième fils, elle eut un songe qui était un présage de l’avenir. Elle vit dans son sein un petit chien blanc, tout roux sur le dos et qui aboyait. Elle déclara son rêve à un homme de Dieu. Celui-ci lui répondit d'une voix prophétique: « Vous serez la mère d'un excellent petit chien, qui doit être le gardien de la maison de Dieu; il jettera de grands aboiements contre les ennemis de la foi ; car ce sera un prédicateur distingué, qui guérira beaucoup de monde par la vertu de sa langue. » Or, comme Bernard était encore tout petit, et qu'il souffrait d'un grand mal de tête, il repoussa et chassa, en criant avec une extrême indignation, une femme qui venait pour soulager sa douleur par des charmes; mais la miséricorde de Dieu ne manqua pas. de récompenser le zèle du petit enfant ; en effet il se leva aussitôt et se trouva guéri. Dans la très sainte nuit de la naissance du Seigneur, comme le jeune Bernard attendait dans l’église l’office des Matines, il désira savoir à quelle heure de la nuit J.-C. était né. Alors le petit enfant Jésus lui apparut comme s'il venait de naître du sein de sa mère. Ce qui lui fit penser, tant qu'il vécut, que c'était l’heure de la naissance du Seigneur. Dès ce moment il lui fut donné, pour ce mystère, une intelligence plus profonde et une éloquence plus riche. Aussi dans la suite, il mit au jour, en l’honneur de la mère et du Fils un opuscule remarquable parmi tous ses autres traités, dans lequel il expliqua l’évangile Missus est Angelus Gabriel. L'antique ennemi voyant des dispositions si saintes dans cet enfant fut jaloux de la résolution qu'il avait prise de garder la chasteté, et il tendit une infinité de pièges pour le faire succomber à la tentation. En effet une fois que Bernard avait arrêté quelque temps les yeux sur une femme, à l’instant il rougit de lui-même et exerça sur son corps une vengeance très sévère; car il se jeta dans un étang dont les eaux étaient glacées; où il resta jusqu'à être presque gelé, et par la' grâce de Dieu, il éteignit en soi toutes les ardeurs de la concupiscence de la chair.

Vers le même temps, une fille poussée par le démon se glissa nue dans le lit où il dormait. En la sentant, il lui céda en toute paix et silence le côté du lit où elle s'était placée, et se retournant de l’autre côté, il s'endormit. Alors cette misérable resta quelques instants tranquille et attendit; enfin elle se mit à le toucher et à le remuer; enfin comme il restait immobile, cette fille tout impudente qu'elle fût, se prit à rougir et pleine d'une crainte étrange et d'admiration, elle se leva et s'enfuit. Une autre fois, il avait reçu l’hospitalité chez une dame qui, envoyant un si beau jeune homme, conçut pour lui des désirs brûlants. Comme elle lui avait fait préparer un lit à l’écart, elle se leva au milieu du silence de la nuit, et eut l’impudence de venir le trouver. Bernard ne l’eut pas plutôt sentie, qu'il se mit à crier: « Au voleur, au voleur. » A ce cri que la femme fait; on allume une lampe; on cherche le voleur, mais il n'y a pas moyen de le trouver. Chacun retourne à son lit, et repose, la misérable seule ne repose pas, car elle se lève une seconde fois, va au lit de Bernard qui s'écrie de nouveau: « Au voleur, au voleur. » On cherche encore le larron, qui ne fut pas découvert par celui-là seul qui le connaissait. Cette méchante femme ainsi rebutée ne laissa pas de revenir, une troisième fois ; enfin vaincue par la crainte ou le désespoir, elle cessa à peine ses tentatives. Or, le lendemain, quand Bernard se fut remis en route, ses compagnons de voyage lui demandèrent, en lui adressant des reproches, pourquoi il avait tant rêvé voleurs. Il leur dit : « Véritablement cette nuit, j'ai été attaqué par un voleur; car l’hôtesse essayait de  m’enlever le trésor de la chasteté qui ne se peut recouvrer. » Réfléchissant donc qu'il n'est pas sûr de demeurer avec un serpent, il pensa à s'enfuir, et dès lors il résolut d'entrer dans l’ordre de Cîteaux. Lorsque ses frères en furent instruits, ils voulurent le détourner de toutes les manières d'exécuter son dessein; mais le Seigneur lui accorda une si grande grâce que non seulement rien ne s'opposa à sa conversion mais il gagna au Seigneur pour entrer en religion tons ses frères et beaucoup* d'autres encore. Gérard, son frère, militaire vaillant, regardait comme vaines les paroles de Bernard, et rejetait absolument ses conseils ; alors Bernard, animé d'une foi toute de feu, et transporté du zèle de la charité pour le salut de son frère, lui dit : « Je sais, mon frère, je sais qu'il n'y aura que le malheur qui puisse donner à tes oreilles de comprendre. Puis mettant le doigt sur son côté : « Le jour viendra dit-il, et il viendra bientôt, qu'une lance perçant ce côté fera arriver jusqu'à ton coeur l’avis que tu rejettes. » Peu de jours après Gérard, qui avait reçu un coup de lance à l’endroit où son frère avait posé le doigt, est fait prisonnier et jeté dans les fers. Bernard vint pour le voir, et comme on ne lui permettait pas de lui parler, il lui cria : « Je sais, mon frère Gérard, que dans peu nous (levons aller pour entrer au monastère. » Cette nuit-là même, les chaînes qui retenaient Gérard par les pieds tombèrent; la porte de la prison s'ouvrit et il s'enfuit plein de joie. Alors il fit connaître à son frère qu'il avait changé de résolution. et qu'il voulait se faire moine.

L'an de l’Incarnation 1112, la quinzième année depuis l’établissement de la maison des cisterciens, le serviteur de Dieu Bernard, âgé d'environ vingt-deux ans, entra dans l’ordre de Citeaux avec plus de trente de ses compagnons. Or, comme il sortait avec ses frères de la maison paternelle, Guidon, l’aîné, voyant Nivard, son tout petit frère, qui jouait sur la place avec des enfants, lui dit : « Allons, mon frère Nivard, c'est à toi seul qu'appartient toute la terre de notre héritage. » Et l’enfant lui répondit non pas comme un enfant : « Vous aurez donc le ciel, et à moi vous me laissez seulement la terre? Ce partage n'a pas été fait ex aequo. » Nivard resta donc quelque peu de temps avec son père; mais dans la suite, il alla rejoindre ses frères. Le serviteur de Dieu Bernard étant entré dans cet ordre, s'adonna tellement à la contemplation spirituelle et fut tellement occupé du service de Dieu, qu'il ne se servait déjà plus d'aucun de ses sens corporels ; car il y avait un an qu'il était dans la cellule des novices, qu'il ignorait encore si la maison avait une voûte. Bien qu'il entrât souvent dans l’église et qu'il en sortît, il pensait qu'il n'y avait qu'une fenêtre au chevet, où il s'en trouvait trois. L'abbé de Cîteaux envoya des frères pour fonder la maison de Clairvaux, et ce fut Bernard qu'il leur proposa pour abbé. Il y vécut longtemps dans une pauvreté excessive, et souvent il n'avait que des feuilles de hêtre pour confectionner le potage. Le serviteur de Dieu veillait au delà de ce que peut la force d'un homme : et il avait coutume de dire que le temps qu'il regrettait le plus était celui qu'il passait à dormir; il trouvait que la comparaison qu'on fait entre le sommeil et la mort était assez juste, puisque ceux qui sont morts semblent. dormir aux yeux des hommes comme ceux qui dorment semblent morts aux yeux de Dieu. C'est pourquoi, s'il entendait un frère ronfler trop fort, ou bien s'il le voyait couché avec peu de bienséance, il le supportait avec peine, et prétendait qu'il dormait comme un homme charnel ou bien comme un séculier. Il n'était porté à manger par aucun plaisir de contenter son appétit; c'était la crainte de défaillir qui le faisait se mettre à table, comme à un lieu de supplice. Après le repas, il avait constamment la coutume de penser à la quantité de nourriture qu'il avait prise, et s'il s'apercevait avoir excédé seulement d'un peu sa ration ordinaire, il ne laissait pas passer cela impunément. II avait tellement dompté les attraits de la friandise qu'il avait perdu en grande partie le sens dit goût; car un jour qu'on lui avait versé de l’huile par mégarde, il la but sans s'en apercevoir : et le fait serait resté ignoré, si quelqu'un n'eût remarqué avec étonnement qu'il avait les lèvres couvertes d'huile. On sait que pendant plusieurs jours, il fit usage de sang caillé qui lui avait été servi pour du beurre. Il ne trouvait de saveur qu'à l’eau, parce que, en la prenant, disait-il, elle lui rafraîchissait la bouche et la gorge. Il disait ingénument que tout ce qu'il avait appris dans l’Écriture sainte, il l’avait acquis par la méditation et la prière dans les forêts et dans les champs; et il répétait souvent à ses amis qu'il n'avait jamais eu d'autres maîtres que les chênes et les hêtres. Enfin il avoua que c'était souvent dans la méditation et la prière que toute la Sainte Écriture s'était présentée à lui sous son véritable sens, et toute sa clarté. A une époque, rapporte-t-il dans le 82° sermon sur le Cantique des Cantiques, pendant qu'il parlait, il voulait retenir quelque chose que le Saint-Esprit lui suggérait, et se le réserver pour une autre fois où il serait obligé de traiter le même sujet, il lui sembla entendre une voix qui lui disait : « Tant que vous retiendrez cela, vous ne recevrez pas autre chose. » Il est certain qu'il ne le faisait pas par un sentiment d'infidélité, quoiqu'il témoignât manquer d'un peu de foi.

Dans ses vêtements la pauvreté lui plut toujours, mais jamais la malpropreté, qu'il disait être la marque d'un esprit négligent, ou plein d'un sot orgueil, ou bien convoitant la gloire humaine. Souvent il citait ce proverbe, que toujours il avait dans le cœur : « Qui veut être remarqué, agit autrement qu'un autre. » C'est pour cela qu'il porta un cilice plusieurs années, tant que la chose put rester secrète ; mais quand il s'aperçut qu'elle était découverte, il s'en dépouilla et fit comme la communauté. S'il riait, c'était toujours de telle sorte qu'il lui fallait faire des efforts pour rire plutôt que pour réprimer des ris : il fallait qu'il les excitât plutôt qu’il ne les retint. Comme il avait coutume de dire qu'il y avait trois genres de patience, savoir : 1° patience pour les paroles injurieuses, 2° patience pour le dommage dans les biens, et 3° patience dans les maladies du corps, il prouva qu'il les possédait tous par les exemples qui suivent : Il avait écrit une lettre dans laquelle il donnait des avis à un évêque en termes affectueux. L'évêque outré de colère lui répondit en style des plus amers et commença ainsi sa lettre: « Salut et non par esprit de blasphème »,comme si saint Bernard lui eût écrit poussé par l’esprit de blasphème; mais celui-ci lui écrivit de nouveau en disant : « Je ne crois pas avoir l’esprit de blasphème, et je -ne sache pas avoir maudit personne, ni avoir l’envie de le faire à l’égard de qui que ce soit, mais surtout envers le prince de mon peuple. » Un abbé lui envoya 600 marcs d'argent pour construire un monastère ; or, toute la somme fut ravie en route par des voleurs. A cette nouvelle, Bernard se contenta de dire : « Béni soit Dieu, qui nous a délivrés de ce fardeau; il faut toutefois avoir pitié de ceux qui l’ont enlevé; car, d'une part, c'était la cupidité humaine qui les poussa; et d'ailleurs cette grosse somme d'argent avait été l’occasion d'une grande tentation. Un chanoine régulier vint le prier instamment de le recevoir au nombre des moines. Comme Bernard n'acquiesçait pas à sa demande et lui conseillait de retourner à son église : « Pourquoi donc, lui dit le chanoine, recommandez-vous si fort la perfection dans vos écrits, si vous ne l’offrez pas à ceux qui la désirent ? Que ne puis-je les tenir dans mes mains, vos livres, afin de les mettre en morceaux! » Bernard reprit : « Vous n'avez lu dans aucun d'eux que vous ne pouviez pas être parfait dans votre cloître : c'est la correction des moeurs, ce n'est pas le changement de lieux que j'ai recommandé dans tous mes livres. » Alors cet insensé se jeta sur lui et le frappa si grièvement à la joue, que la rougeur succéda au coup, et l’enfle à la rougeur. Déjà ceux qui se trouvaient là se levaient contre le sacrilège, mais le serviteur de Dieu les prévint en criant et en les conjurant au nom de J.-C. de ne point le toucher et de ne lui faire aucun mal. Il avait coutume de dire aux novices qui voulaient entrer en religion : « Si vous voulez avoir part à. tout ce qui se fait dans l’intérieur de cette maison, laissez à la porte le corps que vous avez amené du siècle: l’esprit seul entre ici; on n'y a pas besoin de la chair. » Son père, qui était resté seul à la maison, vint an monastère et y mourut après un court espace de temps, dans une belle vieillesse.

Sa soeur, qui s'était mariée, vivait exposée au danger au sein des richesses et des délices du monde. Or, elle vint une fois au monastère faire une visite à ses frères. Et comme elle était arrivée avec une suite et un appareil magnifique, Bernard en eut horreur comme du filet dont se sert le diable pour prendre les âmes; il refusa absolument de sortir pour la voir. Comme aucun de ses frères ne venait à sa rencontre, mais que l’un d'eux, qui pour lors était portier, l’appelait fumier habillé, elle fondit toute en larmes. « Bien que je sois une pécheresse, dit-elle, c'est pour les gens de cette sorte que J.-C. est mort: c'est parce que je sens être une pécheresse que je recherche les avis et l’entretien des personnes de bien; et si mon frère, méprise mon corps, que le serviteur de Dieu ne méprise pas mon âme. Qu'il vienne, qu'il ordonne, et tout ce qu'il ordonnera, je l’accomplirai. » Ce ne fut qu'après cette promesse que saint Bernard vint la trouver avec ses frères ; et parce qu'il ne pouvait pas la séparer de son mari, il lui interdit d'abord toute la vaine gloire du monde, et il lui proposa, pour modèle à imiter, la conduite de sa mère; après quoi il la congédia. A son retour, il s'opéra en elle un changement si soudain, qu'au milieu de la gloire du monde, elle menait une vie érémitique et qu'elle se rendait absolument étrangère à tout ce qui tenait du siècle. Enfin à force de prières, elle gagna son mari, et après avoir reçu l’autorisation de son évêque, elle entra dans un monastère. L'homme de Dieu tomba malade, et on croyait qu'il allait rendre le dernier soupir, quand il fut ravi en esprit et il lui parut qu'il était présenté au tribunal de Dieu: Satan y fut aussi de son côté, et le pressait d'accusations injustes. Quand il eut tout articulé et que ce fut au tout de l’homme de Dieu à parler, celui-ci dit sans se troubler et sans s'effrayer : « Je l’avoue, je suis un indigne, et je tic saurais, par mes propres mérites, obtenir le royaume des cieux. Au reste mon Seigneur qui le possède à double titre, savoir par héritage de son père, et par le mérite de sa passion, se contente de l’un et me donne l’autre, ce don, je ;le revendique pour moi, et je ne saurais être confondu. » A cette parole l’ennemi fut confus, l’assemblée dissoute, et l’homme de Dieu revint à lui. Il atterra son corps par une abstinence excessive, par le travail, par les jeûnes, à tel point qu'il était continuellement malade et languissant, la fièvre le dévorait, et c'était à peine s'il pouvait suivre les exercices du couvent. Une fois, il était très gravement malade; ses frères firent des prières pour lui, et il se sentit revenir à la santé. Alors il convoqua la communauté et dit : « Pourquoi retenez-vous un misérable homme ? vous êtes plus forts et vous l’avez emporté. Grâce, je vous en prie, grâce, laissez-moi  m’en aller. » Plusieurs villes élurent l’homme de Dieu pour évêque: ce furent en particulier Gênes et Milan. A ceux qui le demandaient, il disait sans consentir, comme aussi sans refuser avec dureté, qu'il ne s'appartenait pas, mais qu'il était consacré au service des autres. Au reste, les frères, d'après le conseil de l’homme de Dieu, s'étaient pourvus et munis de l’autorité du souverain Pontife pour que personne ne pût leur ravir leur joie. A une époque ayant visité les frères Chartreux, Bernard les édifia beaucoup en tous points. Il n'y eut qu'une chose qui frappa le prieur de la Chartreuse, c'est que la selle qui portait le saint abbé n'était pas sans quelque élégance et n'annonçait pas la pauvreté. Le prieur en fit l’observation à un des frères qui rapporta cela à l’homme de Dieu. Celui-ci n'en fut pas moins étonné et s'informa de ce qu'était cette selle : car de Clairvaux, il était venu à là Chartreuse sans savoir comment elle pouvait être. Pendant toute une journée, il chemina auprès du lac de Lausanne sans le voir, ou bien il ne remarqua pas qu'il le voyait. Le soir, comme ses compagnons parlaient de ce lac, Bernard leur demanda où il se trouvait. En entendant cela, ils restèrent dans l’admiration.

L'humilité de son coeur l’emportait en lui sur la gloire de son nom, et le monde entier ne parvenait pas autant à l’élever qu'il se rabaissait lui-même. Tous le regardaient comme un homme extraordinaire, et lui se considérait comme le dernier de tous : personne ne lui trouvait son égal et lui-même ne se préférait â personne. Enfin, d'après ses propres aveux, au milieu des plus grands honneurs, et quand il recevait des hommages universels, il se croyait être un personnage d'emprunt, ou bien il pensait rêver : mais où il rencontrait des frères plus simples; il était joyeux de se trouver jouir d'une humilité qui lui était chère, et d'être rendu à lui-même. Or, toujours on le rencontrait ou priant, ou lisant, ou écrivant, ou méditant, ou bien édifiant les frères par sa parole. Une fois qu'il prêchait au peuple et que tous l’écoutaient avec attention et dévotion, cette tentation se glissa dans son esprit : « Vraiment tu parles aujourd'hui admirablement ; les hommes t'écoutent volontiers et tu passes généralement pour un savant! » Mais l’homme de Dieu, qui se sentait pressé par cette tentation, s'arrêta un instant, et se mit à penser, s'il devait continuer ou finir son discours. Et aussitôt, fortifié par le secours de Dieu, il répondit tout bas au tentateur : « Ce n'est pas par toi que j'ai commencé, ce n'est pas par toi que je cesserai. » Et, sans se troubler, il poursuivit sa prédication jusqu'à la fin. Un moine qui, dans le siècle, avait été ribaud et joueur, fut tenté par le malin esprit de rentrer dans le monde. Or, comme Bernard ne le pouvait retenir, il lui demanda de quoi il vivrait. Celui-ci lui répondit : « Je sais jouer aux dés et avec cela je pourrai vivre. »

Bernard lui dit : « Si je te confie un capital, veux-tu revenir tous les ans et partager avec moi le bénéfice?» Quand le moine entendit cette proposition, il fut tout joyeux, et promit qu'il y viendrait volontiers. Bernard commanda donc de lui donner vinât sols et cet homme s'en alla avec cet argent. Or, le saint homme agissait ainsi afin de pouvoir le faire revenir une seconde fois, comme cela eut lieu plus tard. Ce malheureux s'en alla donc, et perdit tout : puis il revint fort confus à la porte. Quand l’homme de Dieu eut appris son arrivée, il alla plein de joie vers lui, et tendit son giron afin de partager le gain ensemble. Et l’autre dit: « Rien, mon père, je n'ai rien gagné; mais j'ai encore perdu le capital: si vous voulez, recevez-moi pour notre capital. » Bernard lui répondit avec bonté : « S'il en est ainsi, dit-il, mieux vaut encore recevoir cela que tout perdre ». Une fois saint Bernard voyageait monté sur une jument; il rencontra un paysan, avec lequel il vint à parler et à gémir de la légèreté du coeur dans la prière. Quand cet homme Peut entendu, il le méprisa aussitôt, et lui dit que quant à lui, dans, ses prières, il avait, le coeur ferme et solide. Mais saint Bernard voulant le convaincre et réprimer sa témérité lui dit : « Éloignez-vous un peu de nous, et commencez l’oraison dominicale avec toute l’attention dont- vous pouvez être capable. Si vous l’achevez sans aucune distraction et sans vous tromper, je vous donne bien certainement la jument sur laquelle je suis assis. Mais vous allez me promettre consciencieusement aussi, que si vous avez en même temps une distraction, vous vous garderez bien de me le cacher. » Le paysan enchanté et qui se croyait déjà avoir gagné la jument, fut assez téméraire pour se retirer, et après s'être recueilli, il commença à réciter l’oraison dominicale. Il avait à peine achevé la moitié du Pater, qu'une pensée le tourmente : c'est de savoir s'il aura la selle avec la jument. Alors s'étant aperçu de sa distraction, il revint vite trouver saint Bernard auquel il déclara ce qui l’avait inquiété pendant sa prière, et dans la suite, il fut moins présomptueux de soi-même.

Frère Robert, moine et parent de saint Bernard, trompé dès son enfance par les discours de certaines personnes, s'en était allé à Cluny. Or, le vénérable Père, après avoir gardé le silence à ce sujet pendant un certain temps; prit la résolution de. lui écrire pour le faire rentrer. Et comme il était en plein air, et qu'un autre moine écrivait en même temps sous la dictée du saint, tout à coup, et sans qu'on s'y attendît, la pluie tomba avec impétuosité. Or, celui qui écrivait voulait plier la feuille. « C'est oeuvre de Dieu, lui dit Bernard, écrivez, et ne craignez rien. » Il écrivit donc la lettre au milieu de la pluie, sans en recevoir une goutte, car bien qu'il eût plu de tout côté, cependant la force de la charité suffit pour éloigner l’incommodité de l’orage. — L'homme de Dieu avait bâti un monastère, qui était envahi par une multitude incroyable de mouches, en sorte que c'était une grande gêne pour tout le monde. Saint Bernard dit : « Je les excommunie. » Et le matin, on les trouva toutes mortes. — Ayant été envoyé par le souverain pontife à Milan, pour en réconcilier les habitants avec l’Église, il était déjà de retour à Pavie, quand un homme lui amena sa femme, qui était possédée. Aussitôt le diable se mit à vomir contre le saint mille injures par la bouche de cette misérable. Il disait : « Ce mangeur de poireaux, cet avaleur de choux, ne me chassera point de ma petite vieille. » Mais l’homme de Dieu l’envoya à l’église de saint Syr. Saint Syr voulut le céder à son hôte et ne fit aucun bien à cette femme. On l’amena donc de nouveau à saint Bernard. Alors le diable, par la bouche de la possédée, se mit à plaisanter et à dire : « Ce ne sera pas Sirule, ce ne sera pas Bernardinet qui me chassera. » A cela, le serviteur de Dieu répondit : « Ni Syr, ni Bernard ne te chassera, mais ce sera le Seigneur J.-C: » Et il ne se fut pas plutôt mis en oraison, que le malin esprit dit : « Que je sortirais volontiers de cette petite vieille! Combien j'y suis tourmenté! Que je sortirais volontiers!  Mais je ne le puis; le grand Seigneur ne le veut pas. » Le saint lui dit : « Et quel est le grand Seigneur? » « C’est Jésus de Nazareth », répondit le diable. « L'as-tu jamais vu ? » reprit Bernard. « Oui, » répondit le malin. « Où? » dit Bernard. L'autre lui répondit : « Dans la gloire. » « Tu as donc été dans la gloire ? » repartit Bernard. « Certainement, » dit le démon. « Et comment en es-tu sorti ? » lui demanda le saint. « C'est avec Lucifer que nous fûmes précipités en grand nombre. » Or, l’esprit méchant disait cela d'une voix lugubre, par la bouche de la vieille, en présence de tout le monde qui l’entendait. Et l’homme de Dieu lui dit : « Est-ce que tu ne voudrais pas retourner dans cette gloire? » Et le démon se mit à ricaner d'une certaine façon et dit : « C'est un peu tard, à présent. » Alors, l’homme de Dieu fit une prière, et le démon sortit de la femme. Mais quand saint Bernard se fut retiré, le diable s'en empara de nouveau. Alors son mari accourut dire à saint Bernard ce qui était arrivé. Celui-ci ordonna de lier au cou de la femme un papier sur lequel étaient écrits ces mots : « Au nom de N.-S: J.-C., je te commande, démon, de ne plus oser toucher cette femme à l’avenir. » Après quoi, le diable n'osa plus s'approcher d'elle**. — Il y avait, dans l’Aquitaine, une misérable femme tourmentée par un démon impudent et incube. Pendant six ans, il abusa d'elle et la vexa par des débauches incroyables. Quand l’homme de Dieu vint en ce pays, le démon défendit à la possédée, avec des menaces horribles, de s'approcher du saint, parce qu'il ne pourrait lui rien faire de bien, et qu’après son départ, celui qui était son amant serait pour elle un persécuteur acharné. Mais cette femme alla trouver avec assurance l’homme de Dieu, et lui raconta avec beaucoup de sanglots ce qu'elle souffrait. Saint Bernard lui dit : « Prenez mon bâton que voici, mettez-le dans votre lit, et s'il peut faire quelque chose, qu'il le fasse. » La femme le fit et se coucha; mais aussitôt l’autre vint et n'osa pas s'approcher du lit, ni entreprendre ce qu'il avait coutume de faire. Alors i1 la menace vivement qu'aussitôt après le départ du saint, il se vengera d'elle d'une manière atroce. Ceci fut rapporté à saint Bernard qui rassembla le peuple, commanda que chacun tint une chandelle allumée à la main, et, avec toute l’assemblée qui se trouvait là, il excommunia le démon; ensuite il lui interdit tout accès, soit auprès de cette femme, soit auprès d'aucune autre. Ce fut ainsi qu'elle ut délivrée entièrement d'une semblable illusion.

Dans la même province, le saint homme remplissait les fonctions de légat, pour réconcilier à l’Église le duc d'Aquitaine, qui refusait absolument de le faire. Alors, l’homme de Dieu s'approcha de l’autel pour célébrer les saints mystères, et le duc attendait à la porte de l’église, comme excommunié. Quand saint Bernard eut dit Pax Domini il mit le corps de N.-S. sur la patène et le prit avec lui, et alors, la figure embrasée et les yeux flamboyants, il sort de l’église et adresse au duc ces paroles terribles : « Nous t'avons, prié, dit-il, et tu nous as méprisés: Voici le Fils de la Vierge qui vient à toi; c'est lui qui est le seigneur de l’Église que, tu persécutes. C'est ici ton juge au nom duquel tout genou fléchit. C'est ici ton juge dans les mains duquel ton âme viendra un jour. Est-ce que tu le mépriseras aussi; lui, comme tu as méprisé ses serviteurs ? Résiste-lui, si tu l’oses. » Et aussitôt le duc fut glacé, et 'comme si tous ses membres eussent été disloqués, il se laissa tomber à l’instant aux pieds du saint, qui, le poussant du talon, lui ordonna de se lever et d'écouter la sentence de Dieu. Le duc se leva tout tremblant, et accomplit de suite ce que le saint homme lui commandait. — Le serviteur de Dieu étant venu en Allemagne pour apaiser une grande discorde, l’archevêque de Mayence envoya au-devant de lui un clerc vénérable. Celui-ci lui disait qu'il avait été envoyé au-devant de lui par son seigneur, et l’homme de Dieu répondit : «C'est un autre Seigneur qui vous a envoyé. » Celui-ci, étonné, lui assurait qu'il avait été envoyé par l’archevêque, son maître. De son côté, le serviteur de J.-C. disait : « Vous vous trompez, mon fils, vous vous trompez; c'est un plus grand maître qui vous a envoyé; c'est J.-C. » Le clerc, qui comprit : « Vous pensez, dit-il, que je veux me faire moine ? Dieu  m’en garde ! Je n'y ai pas pensé; et cela n'entre pas dans mes goûts. » Cependant, dans le même voyage, il dit adieu au siècle et reçut l’habit des mains de l’homme de Dieu. — Le saint homme avait accueilli dans son ordre un militaire d'une famille très noble, lequel, étant resté un certain temps avec saint Bernard, fut aux prises avec une tentation très grave. Un des frères, qui le vit si triste, lui en demanda la causé. Il lui répondit : « Je sais, dit-il, je sais que désormais il n'y aura plus de joie pour moi. » Le frère rapporta cette parole au serviteur de Dieu, qui pria pour le militaire avec plus de ferveur. A l’instant, ce frère, qui avait été si grièvement tenté et qui était si triste, parut aux frères aussi joyeux et aussi gai qu'il avait paru désolé auparavant. Le frère lui . rappela le mot triste qu'il avait prononcé, alors, il répondit : « Bien, que j'aie dit alors, je ne serai plus jamais gai, je dis maintenant, je ne serai plus jamais triste. »

Saint Malachie, évêque d'Irlande, dont saint Bernard a écrit la vie pleine de vertus, étant trépassé heureusement à J.-C. dans son monastère, l’homme de Dieu offrit pour lui l’hostie salutaire; il connut alors sa gloire par une révélation divine, et par inspiration *** il changea la formule de la postcommunion en disant avec une voix toute joyeuse : Deus qui Beatum Malachiam sanctorum tuorum meritis coaequasti, tribue, quaesumus, ut qui pretiosae mortis ejus festa agimus, vitae quoque imitemus exempla. Per Dominum... ****. Le chantre lui faisant signe qu'il se trompait : « Non, dit-il, je ne me trompe pas ; je sais ce que je dis. » Ensuite il alla baiser les précieux restes du saint. — A l’approche du carême, il reçut la visite d'un grand nombre d'étudiants qu'il pria de s'abstenir, au moins dans ces saints jours, de leurs vanités et de leurs débauches. Comme ils n'acquiesçaient pas à sa prière, il leur fit servir du vin en disant : « Buvez 1a boisson des âmes. » Quand ils eurent bu ils furent subitement changés; ils avaient tout à l’heure refusé de servir Dieu pendant un peu de temps, et ils lui consacrèrent toute leur vie. — Enfin, saint Bernard approchant heureusement de la mort, dit à ses frères « Je vous laisse trois points à observer, et dans tout le cours de ma vie je les ai pratiqués autant qu'il a été en moi : je n'ai voulu donner de scandale à personne et s'il y en a eu, je l’ai caché comme je l’ai pu. J'ai toujours cru moins à mon sentiment qu'à celui d'autrui. Quand j'ai été offensé je n'ai jamais cherché à me venger. Voici donc que je vous laisse la charité, l’humilité et la patience. » Enfin après avoir opéré un grand nombre de miracles, construit 160 monastères, composé beaucoup de livres et de traités, et avoir vécu environ 63 ans, il s'endormit dans les bras de ses frères, l’an du Seigneur 1153. Après son décès, il manifesta sa gloire à beaucoup de personnes. Il apparut en effet à l’abbé d'un monastère et l’engagea à le suivre. Comme cet abbé le suivait, l’homme de Dieu lui dit: « Voici que nous allons à la montagne du Liban. Pour vous, vous demeurerez ici et moi j'y monterai. » L'abbé lui demanda pourquoi il voulait monter? « C'est que je veux apprendre », dit-il. « Et que voulez-vous apprendre, mon Père, reprit l’abbé étonné, vous dont nous ne connaissons pas aujourd'hui le pareil sur la terre en ce qui concerne la science? » Le saint lui répondit: « Il n'y a pas de science ici-bas, il n'y a aucune connaissance du vrai. C'est là-haut qu'est la plénitude de la science, c'est là-haut qu'est la véritable connaissance de la vérité. » Et en disant ces mots, il disparut. L'abbé nota le jour, et il trouva que c'était celui où saint Bernard était mort. Dieu opéra par son serviteur beaucoup d'autres miracles, qu'il est presque impossible de compter.

* Jacques de Voragine a écrit cette vie d'après le livre de Guillaume, de Saint-Thierry.

** Ripamoulins rapporte ce fait; dans la 2e partie des Historiarum Ecelesiae mediolauensis, page 57 (oeuvre de Loup de Ferr., page 518.)

*** Guill. de S. Th., l. IV, c. XXI.

**** C’est la postcommunion de la messe de saint Grégoire Ier, pape, telle qu'elle se trouve dans le Romain actuel, à l’exception du mot mortis qui est remplacé par commemorationis.

LA LÉGENDE DORÉE  de Jacques de VORAGINE nouvellement traduite en français avec introduction, notices, notes et recherches sur les sources par l'Abbé J.-B. M. ROZE, Chanoine Honoraire de la cathédrale d'Amiens . Édouard Rouveyre, Éditeur,   76, Rue de Seine, 76. Paris MDCCCCII © Numérisation Abbaye Saint Benoît de Port-Valais en la fête de la chaire de Saint Pierre 22 février 2004

SOURCE : http://www.abbaye-saint-benoit.ch/voragine/tome02/121.htm

La surprenante histoire de la Grande Bible de Clairvaux

Voulue par saint Bernard sobre et dépouillée, la Grande Bible de Clairvaux est un manuscrit exceptionnel.

Bérengère Dommaigné | 19 août 2020

En ce 20 août, jour de la fête de saint Bernard de Clairvaux, Aleteia vous propose de découvrir la Grande Bible qu’il a fait réaliser à l’abbaye de Clairvaux qu’il dirigea jusqu’à sa mort, en 1153. Numérisée depuis 2015, cette Bible est à plus d’un titre exceptionnelle, car elle représente l’exemple même d’un style « monochrome » et décoratif unique en son genre.

En parcourant les fines pages de la Grande Bible de Clairvaux ornées de ses élégantes lettrines, comment ne pas songer, le temps d’un instant, aux moines s’attelant de longues heures durant à la copie des Écritures saintes ? Comment ne pas se plonger dans la formidable aventure que fut celle des abbayes cisterciennes ? L’abbaye cistercienne de Clairvaux est fondée en 1115 par Bernard de Fontaines, le futur Bernard de Clairvaux, qui la dirige jusqu’à sa mort en 1153. Elle est la troisième fille de Cîteaux, l’un des grands centres monastiques de la Chrétienté dont dépendent, à la fin du Moyen Âge 530 autres abbayes, fondées dans toute l’Europe. Les moines de Clairvaux ne coupent pas des arbres en forêt et ne vont pas aux champs faire la moisson. Ils travaillent au sein de l’abbaye, dans le « scriptorium », non loin de l’abbatiale où ils doivent se rendre sept fois par jour pour chanter les psaumes. Ils y copient et recopient inlassablement les livres saints et les grandes œuvres de la littérature grecque et latine. Si la tradition bénédictine veut que la calligraphie soit riche d’or, de dessins et de couleurs, Bernard de Clairvaux va intervenir pour proposer un nouveau style, en demandant que les manuscrits traduisent l’ascèse de la condition monastique.

Six volumes et de 2, 400 pages

C’est dans ce contexte qu’est réalisé vers 1160 le livre le plus beau et le plus monumental de Clairvaux : la Grande Bible. Composée de six volumes et de 2.400 pages, il a fallu pour la réaliser près de 600 peaux de moutons. Mais son originalité ne s’arrête pas à sa taille, car conformément aux prescriptions de saint Bernard et en rupture avec l’enluminure romane traditionnelle, elle est un pur exemple du style monochrome. Point d’or ni de représentation figurative (humaine, animale ou monstrueuse) dans ces pages. Sont privilégiés ici les motifs géométriques, végétaux et surtout monochromes. Ainsi, les 160 grandes lettres qui introduisent les textes sont peintes d’une seule couleur : rouge, vert ou bleu principalement. Ces lettres peintes constituent de véritables œuvres d’art, les moines, artistes, ont inventé ainsi une grande variété de décors géométriques et floraux, dans des dégradés très étudiés et subtilement appliqués.

Après la mort de saint Bernard, en 1153, ses successeurs vont continuer son œuvre en faisant de la bibliothèque de Clairvaux, en moins d’un siècle, une des plus grandes d’Occident. Mais ils reviendront peu à peu à une décoration plus riche de leurs manuscrits. Confisqués à l’abbaye lors de la Révolution française, cinq de ses six volumes originels ont depuis subsisté et les archives et la bibliothèque de Clairvaux ont pu les numériser en 2015 dans le cadre des 900 ans de la fondation de l’abbaye. Ils peuvent ainsi être découvert de tous sur le site de la bibliothèque virtuelle. Une belle occasion de découvrir ce chef-d’œuvre, et l’incroyable créativité des moines copistes.

SOURCE : https://fr.aleteia.org/2020/08/19/la-surprenante-histoire-de-la-grande-bible-de-clairvaux/?utm_campaign=Web_Notifications&utm_source=onesignal&utm_medium=notifications


Bernard de Clairvaux (vers 1450), vitrail, Rhin supérieur,  Paris, musée de Cluny.


BENEDICT XVI

GENERAL AUDIENCE

Saint Peter's Square

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today I would like to talk about St Bernard of Clairvaux, called "the last of the Fathers" of the Church because once again in the 12th century he renewed and brought to the fore the important theology of the Fathers. We do not know in any detail about the years of his childhood; however, we know that he was born in 1090 in Fontaines, France, into a large and fairly well-to-do family. As a very young man he devoted himself to the study of the so-called liberal arts especially grammar, rhetoric and dialectics at the school of the canons of the Church of Saint-Vorles at Châtillon-sur-Seine; and the decision to enter religious life slowly matured within him. At the age of about 20, he entered Cîteaux, a new monastic foundation that was more flexible in comparison with the ancient and venerable monasteries of the period while at the same time stricter in the practice of the evangelical counsels. A few years later, in 1115, Bernard was sent by Stephen Harding, the third Abbot of Cîteaux, to found the monastery of Clairvaux. Here the young Abbot he was only 25 years old was able to define his conception of monastic life and set about putting it into practice. In looking at the discipline of other monasteries, Bernard firmly recalled the need for a sober and measured life, at table as in clothing and monastic buildings, and recommended the support and care of the poor. In the meantime the community of Clairvaux became ever more numerous and its foundations multiplied.

In those same years before 1130 Bernard started a prolific correspondence with many people of both important and modest social status. To the many Epistolae of this period must be added numerous Sermones, as well as Sententiae and Tractatus. Bernard's great friendship with William, Abbot of Saint-Thierry, and with William of Champeaux, among the most important figures of the 12th century, also date to this period. As from 1130, Bernard began to concern himself with many serious matters of the Holy See and of the Church. For this reason he was obliged to leave his monastery ever more frequently and he sometimes also travelled outside France. He founded several women's monasteries and was the protagonist of a lively correspondence with Peter the Venerable, Abbot of Cluny, of whom I spoke last Wednesday. In his polemical writings he targeted in particular Abelard, a great thinker who had conceived of a new approach to theology, introducing above all the dialectic and philosophical method in the constructi0n of theological thought. On another front Bernard combated the heresy of the Cathars, who despised matter and the human body and consequently despised the Creator. On the other hand, he felt it was his duty to defend the Jews, and condemned the ever more widespread outbursts of anti-Semitism. With regard to this aspect of his apostolic action, several decades later Rabbi Ephraim of Bonn addressed a vibrant tribute to Bernard. In the same period the holy Abbot wrote his most famous works such as the celebrated Sermons on the Song of Songs [In Canticum Sermones]. In the last years of his life he died in 1153 Bernard was obliged to curtail his journeys but did not entirely stop travelling. He made the most of this time to review definitively the whole collection of his Letters, Sermons and Treatises. Worthy of mention is a quite unusual book that he completed in this same period, in 1145, when Bernardo Pignatelli, a pupil of his, was elected Pope with the name of Eugene III. On this occasion, Bernard as his spiritual father, dedicated to his spiritual son the text De Consideratione [Five Books on Consideration] which contains teachings on how to be a good Pope. In this book, which is still appropriate reading for the Popes of all times, Bernard did not only suggest how to be a good Pope, but also expressed a profound vision of the Mystery of the Church and of the Mystery of Christ which is ultimately resolved in contemplation of the mystery of the Triune God. "The search for this God who is not yet sufficiently sought must be continued", the holy Abbot wrote, "yet it may be easier to search for him and find him in prayer rather than in discussion. So let us end the book here, but not the search" (XIV, 32: PL 182, 808) and in journeying on towards God.

I would now like to reflect on only two of the main aspects of Bernard's rich doctrine: they concern Jesus Christ and Mary Most Holy, his Mother. His concern for the Christian's intimate and vital participation in God's love in Jesus Christ brings no new guidelines to the scientific status of theology. However, in a more decisive manner than ever, the Abbot of Clairvaux embodies the theologian, the contemplative and the mystic. Jesus alone Bernard insists in the face of the complex dialectical reasoning of his time Jesus alone is "honey in the mouth, song to the ear, jubilation in the heart (mel in ore, in aure melos, in corde iubilum)". The title Doctor Mellifluus, attributed to Bernard by tradition, stems precisely from this; indeed, his praise of Jesus Christ "flowed like honey". In the extenuating battles between Nominalists and Realists two philosophical currents of the time the Abbot of Clairvaux never tired of repeating that only one name counts, that of Jesus of Nazareth. "All food of the soul is dry", he professed, "unless it is moistened with this oil; insipid, unless it is seasoned with this salt. What you write has no savour for me unless I have read Jesus in it" (In Canticum Sermones XV, 6: PL 183, 847). For Bernard, in fact, true knowledge of God consisted in a personal, profound experience of Jesus Christ and of his love. And, dear brothers and sisters, this is true for every Christian: faith is first and foremost a personal, intimate encounter with Jesus, it is having an experience of his closeness, his friendship and his love. It is in this way that we learn to know him ever better, to love him and to follow him more and more. May this happen to each one of us!

In another famous Sermon on the Sunday in the Octave of the Assumption the Holy Abbot described with passionate words Mary's intimate participation in the redeeming sacrifice of her Son. "O Blessed Mother", he exclaimed, "a sword has truly pierced your soul!... So deeply has the violence of pain pierced your soul, that we may rightly call you more than a martyr for in you participation in the passion of the Son by far surpasses in intensity the physical sufferings of martyrdom" (14: PL 183, 437-438). Bernard had no doubts: "per Mariam ad Iesum", through Mary we are led to Jesus. He testifies clearly to Mary's subordination to Jesus, in accordance with the foundation of traditional Mariology. Yet the text of the Sermone also documents the Virgin's privileged place in the economy of salvation, subsequent to the Mother's most particular participation (compassio) in the sacrifice of the Son. It is not for nothing that a century and a half after Bernard's death, Dante Alighieri, in the last canticle of the Divine Comedy, was to put on the lips of the Doctor Mellifluus the sublime prayer to Mary: "Virgin Mother, daughter of your own Son, / humble and exalted more than any creature, / fixed term of the eternal counsel" (Paradise XXXIII, vv. 1 ff.).

These reflections, characteristic of a person in love with Jesus and Mary as was Bernard, are still a salutary stimulus not only to theologians but to all believers. Some claim to have solved the fundamental questions on God, on man and on the world with the power of reason alone. St Bernard, on the other hand, solidly founded on the Bible and on the Fathers of the Church, reminds us that without a profound faith in God, nourished by prayer and contemplation, by an intimate relationship with the Lord, our reflections on the divine mysteries risk becoming an empty intellectual exercise and losing their credibility. Theology refers us back to the "knowledge of the Saints", to their intuition of the mysteries of the living God and to their wisdom, a gift of the Holy Spirit, which become a reference point for theological thought. Together with Bernard of Clairvaux, we too must recognize that man seeks God better and finds him more easily "in prayer than in discussion". In the end, the truest figure of a theologian and of every evangelizer remains the Apostle John who laid his head on the Teacher's breast.

I would like to conclude these reflections on St Bernard with the invocations to Mary that we read in one of his beautiful homilies. "In danger, in distress, in uncertainty", he says, "think of Mary, call upon Mary. She never leaves your lips, she never departs from your heart; and so that you may obtain the help of her prayers, never forget the example of her life. If you follow her, you cannot falter; if you pray to her, you cannot despair; if you think of her, you cannot err. If she sustains you, you will not stumble; if she protects you, you have nothing to fear; if she guides you, you will never flag; if she is favourable to you, you will attain your goal..." (Hom. II super Missus est, 17: PL 183, 70-71).

To special groups

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I offer a warm welcome to the English-speaking pilgrims present at today's Audience, especially from the Dioceses of Lismore and Saginaw accompanied by their Bishops, as well as from Holy Cross and St Margaret Mary Parish in Edinburgh. I also greet the visitors from The Netherlands, Nigeria, Tanzania, England, Ireland, Norway and Sweden. Upon all of you I invoke God's Blessings of peace, joy and hope!
I address a cordial greeting to the Italian-speaking pilgrims and, in particular, to the participants in the General Chapter of the Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus and while I thank this Religious Family for the missionary work they carry out, especially in Africa, I hope it will continue with renewed apostolic zeal to make the charism of St Daniel Comboni ever more up to date in the world.

I greet the Religious, Servants of Charity Opera Don Guanella and in the imminence of their Founder's Feast, I encourage them to work in the Church with generous dedication. 

Lastly, I greet the young people, the sick and the newlyweds. Dear friends, the month of October invites us to renew our active cooperation with the Church's mission. With the fresh energy of youth, with the power of prayer and sacrifice and with the potential of married life, may you be Gospel missionaries and offer your concrete support to all who toil, dedicating their whole life to the evangelization of peoples.



© Copyright 2009 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana




BENEDICT XVI

GENERAL AUDIENCE

Saint Peter's Square

Wednesday, 4 November 2009



Two Theological Models in Comparison: Bernard and Abelard

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In my last Catechesis I presented the main features of 12th-century monastic theology and scholastic theology which, in a certain sense, we might call respectively "theology of the heart" and "theology of reason". Among the exponents of both these theological currents a broad and at times heated discussion developed, symbolically represented by the controversy between St Bernard of Clairvaux and Abelard.

In order to understand this confrontation between the two great teachers it helps to remember that theology is the search for a rational understanding, as far as this is possible, of the mysteries of Christian Revelation, believed through faith: fides quaerens intellectum faith seeks understanding to borrow a traditional, concise and effective definition. Now, whereas St Bernard, a staunch representative of monastic theology, puts the accent on the first part of the definition, namely on fides faith, Abelard, who was a scholastic, insists on the second part, that is, on the intellectus, on understanding through reason. For Bernard faith itself is endowed with a deep certitude based on the testimony of Scripture and on the teaching of the Church Fathers. Faith, moreover, is reinforced by the witness of the Saints and by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in the individual believer's soul. In cases of doubt and ambiguity, faith is protected and illumined by the exercise of the Magisterium of the Church. So it was that Bernard had difficulty in reaching agreement with Abelard and, more in general, with those who submitted the truths of faith to the critical examination of the intellect; an examination which in his opinion entailed a serious danger, that is, intellectualism, the relativization of truth, the questioning of the actual truths of faith. In this approach Bernard saw audacity taken to the point of unscrupulousness, a product of the pride of human intelligence that claims to "grasp" the mystery of God. In a letter he writes with regret: "Human ingenuity takes possession of everything, leaving nothing to faith. It confronts what is above and beyond it, scrutinizes what is superior to it, bursts into the world of God, alters rather than illumines the mysteries of faith; it does not open what is closed and sealed but rather uproots it, and what it does not find viable in itself it considers as nothing and refuses to believe in it" (Epistola CLXXXVIII,1: PL 182, 1, 353).

Theology for Bernard had a single purpose: to encourage the intense and profound experience of God. Theology is therefore an aid to loving the Lord ever more and ever better, as the title of his Treatise on the Duty to love God says (Liber de diligendo Deo). On this journey there are various stages that Bernard describes in detail, which lead to the crowning experience when the believer's soul becomes inebriated in ineffable love. Already on earth the human soul can attain this mystical union with the divine Word, a union that the Doctor Mellifluus describes as "spiritual nuptials". The divine Word visits the soul, eliminates the last traces of resistance, illuminates, inflames and transforms it. In this mystical union the soul enjoys great serenity and sweetness and sings a hymn of joy to its Bridegroom. As I mentioned in the Catechesis on the life and doctrine of St Bernard, theology for him could not but be nourished by contemplative prayer, in other words by the affective union of the heart and the mind with God.

On the other hand Abelard, who among other things was the very person who introduced the term "theology" in the sense in which we understand it today, puts himself in a different perspective. Born in Brittany, France, this famous teacher of the 12th century was endowed with a keen intelligence and his vocation was to study. He first concerned himself with philosophy and then applied the results he achieved in this discipline to theology which he taught in Paris, the most cultured city of the time, and later in the monasteries in which he lived. He was a brilliant orator: literally crowds of students attended his lectures. He had a religious spirit but a restless personality and his life was full of dramatic events: he contested his teachers and he had a son by Héloïse, a cultured and intelligent woman. He often argued with his theological colleagues and also underwent ecclesiastical condemnations although he died in full communion with the Church, submitting to her authority with a spirit of faith. Actually St Bernard contributed to condemning certain teachings of Abelard at the Provincial Synod of Sens in 1140 and went so far as to request Pope Innocent II's intervention. The Abbot of Clairvaux contested, as we have seen, the excessively intellectualistic method of Abelard who in his eyes reduced faith to mere opinion, detached from the revealed truth. Bernard's fears were not unfounded and were, moreover, shared by other great thinkers of his time. Indeed, an excessive use of philosophy dangerously weakened Abelard's Trinitarian teaching, hence also his idea of God. In the moral field his teaching was not devoid of ambiguity: he insisted on considering the intention of the subject as the sole source for defining the goodness or evil of moral acts, thereby neglecting the objective significance and moral value of the actions: a dangerous subjectivism. This as we know is a very timely aspect for our epoch in which all too often culture seems to be marked by a growing tendency to ethical relativism; the self alone decides what is good for it, for oneself, at this moment. However, the great merits of Abelard, who had many disciples and made a crucial contribution to the development of scholastic theology destined to be expressed in a more mature and fruitful manner in the following century should not be forgotten. Nor should some of his insights be underestimated, such as, for example, his affirmation that non-Christian religious traditions already contain a preparation for the acceptance of Christ, the divine Word.

What can we learn today from the confrontation, frequently in very heated tones, between Bernard and Abelard and, in general, between monastic theology and scholastic theology? First of all I believe that it demonstrates the usefulness and need for healthy theological discussion within the Church, especially when the questions under discussion are not defined by the Magisterium, which nevertheless remains an ineluctable reference point. St Bernard, but also Abelard himself, always recognized her authority unhesitatingly. Furthermore, Abelard's condemnation on various occasions reminds us that in the theological field there must be a balance between what we may call the architectural principles given to us by Revelation, which therefore always retain their priority importance, and the principles for interpretation suggested by philosophy, that is, by reason, which have an important but exclusively practical role. When this balance between the architecture and the instruments for interpretation is lacking, theological reflection risks being distorted by errors and it is then the task of the Magisterium to exercise that necessary service to the truth which belongs to it. It must be emphasized in addition that among the reasons that induced Bernard to "take sides" against Abelard and to call for the intervention of the Magisterium, was also his concern to safeguard simple and humble believers, who must be defended when they risk becoming confused or misled by excessively personal opinions or by anti-conformist theological argumentation that might endanger their faith.

Lastly, I would like to recall that the theological confrontation between Bernard and Abelard ended with their complete reconciliation, thanks to the mediation of a common friend, Peter the Venerable, the Abbot of Cluny of whom I have spoken in one of my previous Catecheses. Abelard showed humility in recognizing his errors, Bernard used great benevolence. They both upheld the most important value in a theological controversy: to preserve the Church's faith and to make the truth in charity triumph. Today too may this be the attitude with which we confront one another in the Church, having as our goal the constant quest for truth.




To the English-speaking pilgrims:

I am pleased to welcome the English-speaking pilgrims present at today's Audience. I particularly greet priests from the Dioceses of England and Wales celebrating Jubilees, pilgrims from the Diocese of Wichita, student and teachers from Catholic schools in Denmark, and Catholic nurses from the United States. God's Blessings upon you all!


* * *

Lastly, I greet the young people, the sick, and the newlyweds. Today is the liturgical memorial of St Charles Borromeo, an outstanding Bishop of the Diocese of Milan, who, inspired by ardent love of Christ, was a tireless teacher and guide for people. May his example help you, dear young people to be led by Christ in your daily decisions; may it encourage you, dear sick people to offer your afflictions for the Pastors of the Church and for the salvation of souls; may it support you, dear newlyweds, in basing your family on the Gospel values.

© Copyright 2009 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana



Saint Bernard of Clairvaux

Also known as

Mellifluous Doctor of the Church

Last of the Fathers of the Holy Church

Memorial

20 August

Profile

Born to the French nobility; brother of Saint Humbeline. At age 22, fearing the ways of the world, he, four of his brothers, and 25 friends joined the abbey of Citeaux; his father and another brother joined soon after. Benedictine. Founded and led the monastery of Clairvaux which soon had over 700 monks and eventually 160 daughter houses. Revised and reformed the Cistercians. Advisor to, and admonisher of, King Louis the Fat and King Louis the Young. Attended the Second Lateran Council. Fought Albigensianism. Helped end the schism of anti-Pope Anacletus II. Preached in FranceItaly, and Germany. Helped organize the Second Crusade. Friend and biographer of Saint Malachy O’More. Spritual advisor to Pope Eugene III, who had originally been one of his monks. First Cistercian monk placed on the calendar of saints. Proclaimed a Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius VIII.

Every morning Bernard would ask himself, “Why have I come here?”, and then remind himself of his main duty – to lead a holy life.

Born

1090 at Fontaines-les-Dijon, BurgundyFrance

Died

20 August 1153 at Clairvaux Abbey, Ville-sous-la-Ferté, Aube, France

Canonized

1170 by Pope Alexander III

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Additional Information

A Garner of Saints, by Allen Banks Hinds, M.A.

Book of Saints, by Father Lawrence George Lovasik, S.V.D.

Book of Saints, by the Monks of Ramsgate

Catholic Encyclopedia, by M Gildas

Doctor Mellifluus, by Pope Pius XII

Encyclopedia Britannica

Golden Legend

Little Lives of the Great Saints

Lives of the Saints, by Father Alban Butler

Lives of the Saints, by Father Francis Xavier Weninger

Memorare

Miniature Lives of the Saints for Every Day in the Year, by Father Henry Sebastian Bowden

New Catholic Dictionary

Pictorial Lives of the Saints, by John Dawson Gilmary Shea

Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience, 21 October 2009

Roman Breviary

Saint Bernard and Saint Francis: A Contrast, by John Keating Cartwright, D.D.

Short Lives of the Saints, by Eleanor Cecilia Donnelly

by Saint Bernard

In Praise of the New Knighthood

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On Loving God

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Life of Saint Malachy of Armagh

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Our Sunday Visitor’s Encyclopedia of Saints

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Christian Biographies, by James Keifer

Christian Classics Ethereal Library

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Patron Saints and Their Feast Days, by the Australian Catholic Truth Society

Pope Benedict XVI: General Audience, 21 October 2009

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Vultus Christi: O Doctor Mellifluus

Vultus Christi, Prefce to Saint Bernard, Abbot

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Doctors of the Church #26, by Dr Matthew Bunson

On Loving God, by Saint Bernard

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On the Love of God, by Saint Bernard

On the Song of Songs, by Saint Bernard

On Grace and Free Will, by Saint Bernard

On Consideration, by Saint Bernard

Twelve Degrees of Humility and Pride, by Saint Bernard

On Advent and Christmas, by Saint Bernard

Bernard of Claivaux: The Times, The Man and His Work, by Richard Salter Storrs

Life and Time of Saint Bernard, by Dr Augustus Neader

Life and Times of Saint Bernard, by James Cotter Morison

Life and Times of Saint Bernard, by Father Theodore Ratisbonne

Life and Works of Saint Bernard, v1, by Father John Mabillon

Life and Works of Saint Bernard, v2, by Father John Mabillon

Saint Bernard, Abbot of Clairvaux, by Samuel John Eales

Some letters of Saint Bernard, Abbot of Clairvaux

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Enciclopedia Catolica

Martirologio Romano2001 edición

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Benoît XVI, Audience Générale, 21 octobre 2009

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Oeuvres Complètes de Saint Bernard

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Popa Pio XII: Doctor Mellifluus

San Bernardo di Chiaravalle, L’ultimo padre del Medio evo

San Bernardo di Chiaravalle e i normanni

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Santo del Giorno

Sermoni di Sann Bernardo

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Readings

In dangers, in doubts, in difficulties, think of Mary, call upon Mary. Let not her name depart from your lips, never suffer it to leave your heart. And that you may obtain the assistance of her prayer, neglect not to walk in her footsteps. With her for guide, you shall never go astray; while invoking her, you shall never lose heart; so long as she is in your mind, you are safe from deception; while she holds your hand, you cannot fall; under her protection you have nothing to fear; if she walks before you, you shall not grow weary; if she shows you favor, you shall reach the goal. – Saint Bernard of Clairvaux

Love is sufficient of itself; it gives pleasure by itself and because of itself. It is its own merit, its own reward. Love looks for no cause outside itself, no effect beyond itself. Its profit lies in the practice. Of all the movements, sensations and feelings of the soul, love is the only one in which the creature can respond to the Creator and make some sort of similar return however unequal though it be. For when God loves, all he desires is to be loved in return. The sole purpose of his love is to be loved, int he knowledge that those who love him are made happy by their love of him. – from a sermon by Saint Bernard

All those things that the world loves, such as pleasure, honors, praise, and riches, are to me crosses; and all things which the world counts as crosses, I seek and embrace with the greatest affection. – Saint Bernard

Look at that clever calumniator! He begins by fetching a deep sigh, he affects to be humble, and puts on a modest look, and with a voice choking with sobs tries to gloss over the slander which is on the tip of his tongue One would fancy that he expressly assumed a calm and easy demeanor; for when he speaks against his brother, it is in a tender and compassionate tone. I am really hurt, says he, to find that our brother has fallen into such a sin; you all know how much I love him, and how often I have tried to correct him. It is not today that I have noticed his failing; for I should always be on my guard to speak of others, but others have spoken of it too. It would be in vain to disguise the fact; it is only too true, and with tears in my eyes I tell it to you. This poor unfortunate brother has talent, but it must be confessed that he is very guilty, and however great may be our friendship for him, it is impossible to excuse him. – Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, 24th sermon on the Canticles

MLA Citation

“Saint Bernard of Clairvaux“. CatholicSaints.Info. 18 April 2021. Web. 20 August 2021. <https://catholicsaints.info/saint-bernard-of-clairvaux/>

SOURCE : https://catholicsaints.info/saint-bernard-of-clairvaux/



St. Bernard of Clairvaux

Born in 1090, at Fontaines, near Dijon, France; died at Clairvaux, 21 August, 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 thesecular 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. Robert, Abbot of Molesmes, had founded, in 1098, the monastery of Cîteaux, about four leagues from Dijon, with the purpose of restoring the Rule of St. Benedict in all its rigour. Returning to Molesmes, he left the government of the new abbey to St. Alberic, who died in the year 1109. St. Stephen had just succeeded him (1113) as third Abbot of Cîteaux, when Bernard with thirty young noblemen ofBurgundy, sought admission into the order. Three years later, St. Stephen sent the young Bernard, at the head of a band of monks, the third to leave Cîteaux, to found a new house at Vallée d'Absinthe, or Valley of Bitterness, in the Diocese of Langres. This Bernard namedClaire Vallée, of Clairvaux, on the 25th of June, 1115, and the names of Bernard and Clairvaux thence became inseparable. During the absence of the Bishop of Langres, Bernard was blessed as abbot by William of Champeaux, Bishop of Châlons-sur-Marne, who saw in him the predestined man, servum Dei. From that moment a strong friendship sprang up between the abbot and the bishop, who was professor of theology at Notre Dame of Paris, and the founder of the cloister of St. Victor.

The beginnings of Clairvaux were trying and painful. The regime was so austere that Bernard's health was impaired by it, and only the influence of his friend William of Champeaux, and the authority of the General Chapter could make him mitigate his austerities. Themonastery, however, made rapid progress. Disciples flocked to it in great numbers, desirous of putting themselves under the direction ofBernard. His father, the aged Tescelin, and all his brothers entered Clairvaux as religious, leaving only Humbeline, his sister, in the world and she, with the consent of her husband, soon took the veil in the Benedictine Convent of Jully. Clairvaux becoming too small for thereligious who crowded there, it was necessary to send out bands to found new houses. n 1118, the Monastery of the Three Fountains was founded in the Diocese of Châlons; in 1119, that of Fontenay in the Diocese of Auton (now Dijon) and in 1121, that of Foigny, nearVervins, in the Diocese of Laon (now Soissons), Notwithstanding this prosperity, the Abbot of Clairvaux had his trials. During an absence from Clairvaux, the Grand Prior of Cluny, Bernard of Uxells, sent by the Prince of Priors, to use the expression of Bernard, went to Clairvauxand enticed away the abbot's cousin, Robert of Châtillon. This was the occasion of the longest, and most touching of Bernard's letters.

In the year 1119, Bernard was present at the first general chapter of the order convoked by Stephen of Cîteaux. Though not yet thirty years old, Bernard was listened to with the greatest attention and respect, especially when he developed his thoughts upon the revival of the primitive spirit of regularity and fervour in all the monastic orders. It was this general chapter that gave definitive form to the constitutions of the order and the regulations of the "Charter of Charity" which Pope Callixtus II confirmed 23 December, 1119. In 1120Bernard composed his first work "De Gradibus Superbiae et Humilitatis" and his homilies which he entitles "De Laudibus Mariae". The monksof Cluny had not seen, with satisfaction, those of Cîteaux take the first place among the religious orders for regularity and fervour. For this reason there was a temptation on the part of the "Black Monks" to make it appear that the rules of the new order were impracticable. At the solicitation of William of St. Thierry, Bernard defended himself by publishing his "Apology" which is divided into two parts. In the first part he proves himself innocent of the invectives against Cluny, which had been attributed to him, and in the second he gives his reasons for his attack upon averred abuses. He protests his profound esteem for the Benedictines of Cluny whom he declares he loves equally as well as the other religious orders. Peter the Venerable, Abbot of Cluny, answered the Abbot of Clairvaux without wounding charity in the least, and assured him of his great admiration and sincere friendship. In the meantime Cluny established a reform, and Suger himself, theminister of Louis le Gros, and Abbot of St. Denis, was converted by the apology of Bernard. He hastened to terminate his worldly life and restore discipline in his monastery. The zeal of Bernard did not stop here; it extended to the bishops, the clergy, and the faithful, and remarkable conversions of persons engaged in worldly pursuits were among the fruits of his labours. Bernard's letter to the Archbishop ofSens is a real treatise "De Officiis Episcoporum". About the same time he wrote his work on "Grace and Free Will".

In the year 1128, Bernard assisted at the Council of Troyes, which had been convoked by Pope Honorius II, and was presided over byCardinal Matthew, Bishop of Albano. The purpose of this council was to settle certain disputes of the bishops of Paris, and regulate other matters of the Church of France. The bishops made Bernard secretary of the council, and charged him with drawing up the synodalstatutes. After the council, the Bishop of Verdun was deposed. There then arose against Bernard unjust reproaches and he wasdenounced even in Rome, as a monk who meddled with matters that did not concern him. Cardinal Harmeric, on behalf of the pope, wroteBernard a sharp letter of remonstrance. "It is not fitting" he said "that noisy and troublesome frogs should come out of their marshes to trouble the Holy See and the cardinals". Bernard answered the letter by saying that, if he had assisted at the council, it was because he had been dragged to it, as it were, by force. "Now illustrious Harmeric", he added, "if you so wished, who would have been more capable of freeing me from the necessity of assisting at the council than yourself? Forbid those noisy troublesome frogs to come out of their holes, to leave their marshes . . . Then your friend will no longer be exposed to the accusations of pride and presumption". This letter made a great impression upon the cardinal, and justified its author both in his eyes and before the Holy See. It was at this council that Bernardtraced the outlines of the Rule of the Knights Templars who soon became the ideal of the French nobility. Bernard praises it in his "De Laudibus Novae Militiae".

The influence of the Abbot of Clairvaux was soon felt in provincial affairs. He defended the rights of the Church against the encroachments of kings and princes, and recalled to their duty Henry Archbishop of Sens, and Stephen de Senlis, Bishop of Paris. On the death of Honorius II, which occurred on the 14th of February, 1130, a schism broke out in the Church by the election of two popes,Innocent II and Anacletus II. Innocent II having been banished from Rome by Anacletus took refuge in France. King Louis le Gros convened a national council of the French bishops at Etampes, and Bernard, summoned thither by consent of the bishops, was chosen tojudge between the rival popes. He decided in favour of Innocent II, caused him to be recognized by all the great Catholic powers, went with him into Italy, calmed the troubles that agitated the country, reconciled Pisa with Genoa, and Milan with the pope and Lothaire. According to the desire of the latter, the pope went to Liège to consult with the emperor upon the best means to be taken for his return to Rome, for it was there that Lothaire was to receive the imperial crown from the hands of the pope. From Liège, the pope returned toFrance, paid a visit to the Abbey of St. Denis, and then to Clairvaux where his reception was of a simple and purely religious character. The whole pontifical court was touched by the saintly demeanor of this band of monks. In the refectory only a few common fishes were found for the pope, and instead of wine, the juice of herbs was served for drink, says an annalist of Cîteaux. It was not a table feast that was served to the pope and his followers, but a feast of virtues. The same year Bernard was again at the Council of Reims at the side ofInnocent II, whose oracle he was; and then in Aquitaine where he succeeded for the time in detaching William, Count of Poitiers, from thecause of Anacletus.

In 1132, Bernard accompanied Innocent II into Italy, and at Cluny the pope abolished the dues which Clairvaux used to pay to this celebrated abbey--an action which gave rise to a quarrel between the "White Monks" and the "Black Monks" which lasted twenty years. In the month of May, the pope supported by the army of Lothaire, entered Rome, but Lothaire, feeling himself too weak to resist the partisans of Anacletus, retired beyond the Alps, and Innocent sought refuge in Pisa in September, 1133. In the meantime the abbot had returned to France in June, and was continuing the work of peacemaking which he had commenced in 1130. Towards the end of 1134, he made a second journey into Aquitaine, where William X had relapsed into schism. This would have died out of itself if William could have been detached from the cause of Gerard, who had usurped the See of Bordeaux and retained that of Angoulême. Bernard invited Williamto the Mass which he celebrated in the Church of La Couldre. At the moment of the Communion, placing the Sacred Host upon the paten, he went to the door of the church where William was, and pointing to the Host, he adjured the Duke not to despise God as he did His servants. William yielded and the schism ended. Bernard went again to Italy, where Roger of Sicily was endeavouring to withdraw thePisans from their allegiance to Innocent. He recalled the city of Milan, which had been deceived and misled by the ambitious prelateAnselm, Archbishop of Milan, to obedience to the pose, refused the Archbishopric of Milan, and returned finally to Clairvaux. Believing himself at last secure in his cloister Bernard devoted himself with renewed vigour to the composition of those pious and learned works which have won for him the title of "Doctor of the Church". He wrote at this time his sermons on the "Canticle of Canticles". In 1137 he was again forced to leave his solitude by order of the pope to put an end to the quarrel between Lothaire and Roger of Sicily. At the conference held at Palermo, Bernard succeeded in convincing Roger of the rights of Innocent II and in silencing Peter of Pisa who sustained Anacletus. The latter died of grief and disappointment in 1138, and with him the schism. Returning to Clairvaux, Bernardoccupied himself in sending bands of monks from his too-crowded monastery into Germany, Sweden, England, Ireland, Portugal,Switzerland, and Italy. Some of these, at the command of Innocent II, took possession of Three Fountains Abbey, near the SalvianWaters in Rome, from which Pope Eugenius III was chosen. Bernard resumed his commentary on the "Canticle of Canticles", assisted in 1139, at the Second General Lateran Council and the Tenth Oecumenical, in which the surviving adherents of the schism were definitively condemned. About the same time, Bernard was visited at Clairvaux by St. Malachi, metropolitan of the Church in Ireland, and a very close friendship was formed between them. St. Malachi would gladly have taken the Cistercian habit, but the sovereign pontiff would not give his permission. He died, however, at Clairvaux in 1148.

In the year 1140, we find Bernard engaged in other matters which disturbed the peace of the Church. Towards the close of the eleventh century, the schools of philosophy and theology, dominated by the passion for discussion and a spirit of independence which had introduced itself into political and religious questions, became a veritable public arena, with no other motive than that of ambition. This exaltation of human reason and rationalism found an ardent and powerful adherent in Abelard, the most eloquent and learned man of the age after Bernard. "The history of the calamities and the refutation of his doctrine by St. Bernard", says Ratisbonne, "form the greatest episode of the twelfth century". Abelard's treatise on the Trinity had been condemned in 1121, and he himself had thrown his book into the fire. But in 1139 he advocated new errors. Bernard, informed of this by William of St. Thierry, wrote to Abelard who answered in an insulting manner. Bernard then denounced him to the pope who caused a general council to be held at Sens. Abelard asked for a public discussion with Bernard; the latter showed his opponent's errors with such clearness and force of logic that he was unable to make any reply, and was obliged, after being condemned, to retire. he pope confirmed the judgment of the council, Abelard submitted without resistance, and retired to Cluny to live under Peter the Venerable, where he died two years later.

Innocent II died in 1143. His two successors, Celestin II and Lucius, reigned only a short time, and then Bernard saw one of his disciples,Bernard of Pisa, Abbott of Three Fountains, and known thereafter as Eugenius III, raised to the Chair of St. Peter. Bernard sent him, at his own request, various instructions which compose the "Book of Consideration", the predominating idea of which is that the reformation of the Church ought to commence with the sanctity of the head. Temporal matters are merely accessories; the principal are piety,meditation, or consideration, which ought to precede action. The book contains a most beautiful page on the papacy, and has always been greatly esteemed by the sovereign pontiffs, many of whom used it for their ordinary reading.

Alarming news came at this time from the East. Edessa had fallen into the hands of the Turks, and Jerusalem and Antioch were threatened with similar disaster. Deputations of the bishops of Armenia solicited aid from the pope, and the King of France also sent ambassadors. The pope commissioned Bernard to preach a new Crusade and granted the same indulgences for it which Urban II had accorded to the first. A parliament was convoked at Vézelay in Burgundy in 1146, and Bernard preached before the assembly. The King, Louis le Jeune, Queen Eleanor, and the princes and lords present prostrated themselves at the feet of the Abbot of Clairvaux to receive the cross. Thesaint was obliged to use portions of his habit to make crosses to satisfy the zeal and ardour of the multitude who wished to take part in the Crusade. Bernard passed into Germany, and the miracles which multiplied almost at his every step undoubtedly contributed to the success of his mission. The Emperor Conrad and his nephew Frederick Barbarossa, received the pilgrims' cross from the hand of Bernard, and Pope Eugenius, to encourage the enterprise, came in person to France. It was on the occasion of this visit, 1147, that a council was held at Paris, at which the errors of Gilbert de la Porée, Bishop of Poitiers, were examined. He advanced among other absurdities that theessence and the attributes of God are not God, that the properties of the Persons of the Trinity are not the persons themselves in fine that the Divine Nature did not become incarnate. The discussion was warm on both sides. The decision was left for the council which was held at Reims the following year (1148), and in which Eon de l'Etoile was one of the judges. Bernard was chosen by the council to draw up a profession of faith directly opposed to that of Gilbert, who concluding by stating to the Fathers: "If you believe and assert differently than I have done I am willing to believe and speak as you do". The consequence of this declaration was that the pope condemned the assertions of Gilbert without denouncing him personally. After the council the pope paid a visit to Clairvaux, where he held a general chapter of the order and was able to realize the prosperity of which Bernard was the soul.

The last years of Bernard's life were saddened by the failure of the Crusade he had preached, the entire responsibility for which was thrown upon him. He had accredited the enterprise by miracles, but he had not guaranteed its success against the misconduct and perfidy of those who participated in it. Lack of discipline and the over-confidence of the German troops, the intrigues of the Prince ofAntioch and Queen Eleanor, and finally the avarice and evident treason of the Christian nobles of Syria, who prevented the capture ofDamascus, appear to have been the cause of disaster. Bernard considered it his duty to send an apology to the pope and it is inserted in the second part of his "Book of Consideration". There he explains how, with the crusaders as with the Hebrew people, in whose favour theLord had multiplies his prodigies, their sins were the cause of their misfortune and miseries. The death of his contemporaries served as a warning to Bernard of his own approaching end The first to die was Suger (1152), of whom the Abbot wrote to Eugenius III: "If there is any precious vase adorning the palace of the King of Kings it is the soul of the venerable Suger". Thibaud, Count of Champagne, Conrad,Emperor of Germany, and his son Henry died the same year. From the beginning of the year 1153 Bernard felt his death approaching. The passing of Pope Eugenius had struck the fatal blow by taking from him one whom he considered his greatest friend and consoler. Bernarddied in the sixty-third year of his age, after forty years spent in the cloister. He founded one hundred and sixty-three monasteries in different parts of Europe; at his death they numbered three hundred and forty-three. He was the first Cistercian monk placed on thecalendar of saints and was canonized by Alexander III, 18 January 1174. Pope Pius VIII bestowed on him the title of Doctor of the Church. The Cistercians honour him as only the founders of orders are honoured, because of the wonderful and widespread activity which he gave to the Order of Cîteaux.

The works of St. Bernard are as follows:
  • "De Gradibus Superbiae", his first treatise;
  • "Homilies on the Gospel 'Missus est'" (1120);
  • "Apology to William of St. Thierry" against the claims of the monks of Cluny;
  • "On the Conversion of Clerics", a book addressed to the young ecclesiastics of Paris (1122);
  • "De Laudibus Novae Militiae", addressed to Hughes de Payns, first Grand Master and Prior of Jerusalem (1129). This is a eulogy of the military order instituted in 1118, and an exhortation to the knights to conduct themselves with courage in their several stations.
  • "De amore Dei" wherein St. Bernard shows that the manner of loving God is to love Him without measure and gives the different degree of this love;
  • "Book of Precepts and Dispensations" (1131), which contains answers to questions upon certain points of the Rule of St. Benedictfrom which the abbot can, or cannot, dispense;
  • "De Gratiâ et Libero Arbitrio" in which the Catholic dogma of grace and free will is proved according to the principles of St. Augustine;
  • "Book of Considerations", addressed to Pope Eugenius III;
  • "De Officiis Episcoporum", addressed to Henry, Archbishop of Sens.
His sermons are also numerous:
  • "On Psalm 90, 'Qui habitat'" (about 1125);
  • "On the Canticle of Canticles". St. Bernard explained in eighty-six sermons only the first two chapters of the Canticle of Canticlesand the first verse of the third chapter.
  • There are also eighty-six "Sermons for the Whole Year"; his "Letters" number 530.
Many other letters, treatises, etc., falsely attributed to him are found among his works, such as the "l'Echelle du Cloître", which is the work of Guigues, Prior of La Grande Chartreuse, les Méditations, l'Edification de la Maison intérieure, etc.

Gildas, Marie. "St. Bernard of Clairvaux." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 2. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907. 21 Aug. 2015 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02498d.htm>.

Copyright © 2020 by Kevin Knight. Dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.




Saint Bernard of Clairvaux

Bernard, the founding abbot of Clairvaux Abbey in Burgundy, was one of the most commanding Church leaders in the first half of the twelfth century as well as one of the greatest spiritual masters of all times and the most powerful propagator of the Cistercian reform. He was born in Fontaines-les-Dijon in 1090 and entered the Abbey of Citeaux in 1112, bringing thirty of his relatives with him, including five of his brothers– his youngest brother and his widowed father followed later. After receiving a monastic formation from St. Stephen Harding, he was sent in 1115 to begin a new monastery near Aube: Clairvaux, the Valley of Light. As a young abbot he published a series of sermons on the Annunciation. These marked him not only as a most gifted spiritual writer but also as the “cithara of Mary,” especially noted for his development of Mary’s mediatorial role.

Bernard’s spiritual writing as well as his extraordinary personal magnetism began to attract many to Clairvaux and the other Cistercian monasteries, leading to many new foundations. He was drawn into the controversy developing between the new monastic movement which he preeminently represented and the established Cluniac order, a branch of the Benedictines. This led to one of his most controversial and most popular works, his Apologia. Bernard’s dynamism soon reached far beyond monastic circles. He was sought as an advisor and mediator by the ruling powers of his age. More than any other he helped to bring about the healing of the papal schism which arose in 1130 with the election of the antipope Anacletus II. It cost Bernard eight years of laborious travel and skillful mediation. At the same time he labored for peace and reconciliation between England and France and among many lesser nobles.

His influence mounted when his spiritual son was elected pope in 1145. At Eugene III’s command he preached the Second Crusade and sent vast armies on the road toward Jerusalem. In his last years he rose from his sickbed and went into the Rhineland to defend the Jews against a savage persecution. He also helped to found the celebrated order of the Knights Templars and wrote the rules for the order.

Although he suffered from constant physical debility and had to govern a monastery that soon housed several hundred monks and was sending forth groups regularly to begin new monasteries (he personally saw to the establishment of sixty-five of the three hundred Cistercian monasteries founded during his thirty-eight years as abbot), he yet found time to compose many and varied spiritual works that still speak to us today. He laid out a solid foundation for the spiritual life in his works on grace and free will, humility and love. His gifts as a theologian were called upon to respond to the dangerous teachings of the scintillating Peter Abelard, of Gilbert de la Porree and of Arnold of Brescia. His masterpiece, his Sermons on the Song of Songs, was begun in 1136 and was still in composition at the time of his death. With great simplicity and poetic grace Bernard writes of the deepest experiences of the mystical life in ways that became normative for all succeeding writers. For Pope Eugene he wrote Five Books on Consideration, the bedside reading of Pope John XXIII and many other pontiffs through the centuries.

Bernard died at Clairvaux on 20 August 1153. He was canonized by Pope Alexander III on 18 January 1174. Pope Pius VII declared him a Doctor of the Church in 1830.

SOURCE : http://www.ucatholic.com/saints/bernard-of-clairvaux/

Doctor Mellifluus – On Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, the Last of the Fathers, by Pope Pius XII, 24 May 1953


To Our Venerable Brethren, the Patriarchs, Primates, Archbishops, Bishops and other Local Ordinaries in Peace and Communion with the Apostolic See. Health and Apostolic Benediction.

1. The “Doctor Mellifluus,” “the last of the Fathers, but certainly not inferior to the earlier ones,”[1] was remarkable for such qualities of nature and of mind, and so enriched by God with heavenly gifts, that in the changing and often stormy times in which he lived, he seemed to dominate by his holiness, wisdom, and most prudent counsel. Wherefore, he has been highly praised, not only by the sovereign Pontiffs and writers of the Catholic Church, but also, and not infrequently, by heretics. Thus, when in the midst of universal jubilation, Our predecessor, Alexander III, of happy memory, inscribed him among the canonized saints, he paid reverent tribute when he wrote: “We have passed in review the holy and venerable life of this same blessed man, not only in himself a shining example of holiness and religion, but also shone forth in the whole Church of God because of his faith and of his fruitful influence in the house of God by word and example; since he taught the precepts of our holy religion even to foreign and barbarian nations, and so recalled a countless multitude of sinners . . . to the right path of the spiritual life.”[2] “He was,” as Cardinal Baronius writes, “a truly apostolic man, nay, a genuine apostle sent by God, mighty in work and word, everywhere and in all things adding luster to his apostolate through the signs that followed, so that he was in nothing inferior to the great apostles, . . . and should be called . . . at one and the same time an adornment and a mainstay of the Catholic Church.”[3]

2. To these encomiums of highest praise, to which almost countless others could be added, We turn Our thoughts at the end of this eighth century when the restorer and promoter of the holy Cistercian Order piously left this mortal life, which he had adorned with such great brilliance of doctrine and splendor of holiness. It is a source of gratification to think of his merits and to set them forth in writing, so that, not only the members of his own Order, but also all those who delight principally in whatever is true, beautiful, or holy, may feel themselves moved to imitate the shining example of his virtues.

3. His teaching was drawn, almost exclusively, from the pages of Sacred Scripture and from the Fathers, which he had at hand day and night in his profound meditations: and not from the subtle reasonings of dialecticians and philosophers, which, on more than one occasion, he clearly held in low esteem.[4] It should be remarked that he does not reject that human philosophy which is genuine philosophy, namely, that which leads to God, to right living, and to Christian wisdom. Rather does he repudiate that philosophy which, by recourse to empty wordiness and clever quibbling, is overweening enough to climb to divine heights and to delve into all the secrets of God, with the result that, as often happened in those days, it did harm to the integrity of faith and, sad to say, fell into heresy.

4. “Do you see . . .” he wrote, “how Saint Paul the Apostle (I Cor. viii, 2),[5] makes the fruit and the utility of knowledge consist in the way we know? What is meant by ‘the way we know’? Is it not simply this, that you should recognize in what order, with what application, for what purpose and what things you should know? In what order–that you may first learn what is more conducive to salvation; with what zeal–that you may learn with deeper conviction what moves you to more ardent love; for what purpose–that you may not learn for vain glory, curiosity, or anything of the kind, but only for your own edification and that of your neighbor. For there are some who want knowledge for the sole purpose of knowing, and this is unseemly curiosity. And there are some who seek knowledge in order to be known themselves; and this is unseemly vanity . . . and there are also those who seek knowledge in order to sell their knowledge, for example, for money or for honors; and this is unseemly quest for gain. But there are also those who seek knowledge in order to edify, and this is charity. And there are those who seek knowledge in order to be edified, and this is prudence.”[6]

5. In the following words, he describes most appropriately the doctrine, or rather the wisdom, which he follows and ardently loves: “It is the spirit of wisdom and understanding which, like a bee bearing both wax and honey, is able to kindle the light of knowledge and to pour in the savor of grace. Hence, let nobody think he has received a kiss, neither he who understands the truth but does not love it, nor he who loves the truth but does not understand it.”[7] “What would be the good of learning without love? It would puff up. And love without learning? It would go astray.'[8] “Merely to shine is futile; merely to burn is not enough; to burn and to shine is perfect.”[9] Then he explains the source of true and genuine doctrine, and how it must be united with charity: “God is Wisdom, and wants to be loved not only affectionately, but also wisely. . . Otherwise, if you neglect knowledge, the spirit of error will most easily lay snares for your zeal; nor has the wily enemy a more efficacious means of driving love from the heart, than if he can make a man walk carelessly and imprudently in the path of love.”[10]

6. From these words it is clear that in his study and his contemplation, under the influence of love rather than through the subtlety of human reasoning, Bernard’s sole aim was to focus on the supreme Truth all the ways of truth which he had gathered from many different sources. From them he drew light for the mind, the fire of charity for the soul, and right standards of conduct. This is indeed true wisdom, which rides over all things human, and brings everything back to its source, that is, to God, in order to lead men to Him. The “Doctor Mellifluus” makes his way with care deliberately through the uncertain and unsafe winding paths of reasoning, not trusting in the keenness of his own mind nor depending upon the tedious and artful syllogisms which many of the dialecticians of his time often abused. No! Like an eagle, longing to fix his eyes on the sun, he presses on in swift flight to the summit of truth.

7. The charity which moves him, knows no barriers and, so to speak, gives wings to the mind. For him, learning is not the final goal, but rather a path leading to God; it is not something cold upon which the mind dwells aimlessly, as though amusing itself under the spell of shifting, brilliant light. Rather, it is moved, impelled, and governed by love. Wherefore, carried upwards by this wisdom and in meditation, contemplation, and love, Bernard climbs the peak of the mystical life and is joined to God Himself, so that at times he enjoyed almost infinite happiness even in this mortal life.

8. His style, which is lively, rich, easy flowing, and marked by striking expressions, has such pleasing function that it attracts, delights and recalls the mind of the reader to heavenly things. It incites to, nourishes and strengthens piety; it draws the soul to the pursuit of those good things which are not fleeting, but true, certain, and everlasting. For this reason, his writings were always held in high honor. So from them the Church herself has inserted into the Sacred Liturgy not a few pages fragrant with heavenly things and aglow with piety.[11] They seem to have been nourished with the breath of the Divine Spirit, and to shine with a light so bright, that the course of the centuries cannot quench it; for it shines forth from the soul of a writer thirsting after truth and love, and yearning to nourish others and to make them like to himself.[12]

9. It is a pleasure, Venerable Brethren, for the edification of us all, to quote from his books some beautiful extracts from this mystical teaching: “We have taught that every soul, even though weighed down with sins, ensnared in vice, caught in the allurements of the passions, held captive in exile, and imprisoned in the body . . . even, I say, though it be thus damned and in despair, can find within itself not only reasons for yearning for the hope of pardon and the hope of mercy, but also for making bold to aspire to the nuptials of the Word, not hesitating to establish a covenant of union with God, and not being ashamed to carry the sweet yoke of love along with the King of the Angels. What will the soul not dare with Him whose marvelous image it sees within itself, and whose striking likeness it recognizes in itself?”[13] “By this likeness of charity . . . the soul is wedded to the Word, when, namely, loving even as she is loved, she shows herself, in her will, likened to Him to Whom she is already likened in her nature. Therefore, if she loves Him perfectly, she has become His bride. What can be more sweet than such a likeness? What can be more desirable than this love, whereby thou art enabled of thyself to draw nigh with confidence to the Word, to cleave to Him steadfastly, to question Him familiarly, and to consult Him in all thy doubts, as daring in thy desires as thou art receptive in thy understanding? This is in truth the alliance of holy and spiritual wedlock. Nay, it is saying too little to call it an alliance: it is rather an embrace. Surely we have then a spiritual embrace when the same likes and the same dislikes make of two one spirit. Nor is there any occasion to fear lest the inequality of the persons should cause some defect in the harmony of wills, since love knows nothing of reverence. Love means an exercise of affection, not a showing of honor. . . Love is all sufficient for itself. Whithersoever love comes, it keeps under and holds captive to itself all the other affections. Consequently, the soul that loves, simply loves and knows nothing else except to love.”[14]

10. After pointing out that God wants to be loved by men rather than feared and honored, he adds this wise and penetrating observation: “Love is sufficient of itself; it pleases of itself, and for the sake of loving. A great thing is love, if yet it returns to its Principle, if it is restored to its Origin, if it finds its way back again to its fountain-head, so that it may thus be enabled to flow on unfailingly. Amidst all the emotions, sentiments, and feelings of the soul, love is outstanding in this respect, namely, that it alone among created things, has the power to correspond with, and to make return to the creator in kind, though not in equality.”[15]

11. Since in his prayer, and his contemplation he had frequently experienced this divine love, whereby we can be intimately united with God, there broke forth from his soul these inspired words: “Happy is the soul to whom it has been given to experience an embrace of such surpassing delight! This spiritual embrace is nothing else than a chaste and holy love, a love sweet and pleasant, a love perfectly serene and perfectly pure, a love that is mutual, intimate, and strong, a love that joins two, not in one flesh, but in one spirit, that makes two to be no longer two but one undivided spirit, as witness Saint Paul,[16] where he says, ‘He who cleaves to the Lord is one spirit with Him’.”[17]

12. In our day this sublime teaching of the Doctor of Clairvaux on the mystical life, which surpasses and can satisfy all human desires, seems to be sometimes neglected and relegated to a secondary place, or forgotten by many who, completely taken up with the worries and business of daily life, seek and desire only what is useful and profitable for this mortal life, scarcely ever lift their eyes and minds to Heaven, or aspire after heavenly things and the goods that are everlasting.

13. Yet, although not all can reach the summit of that exalted contemplation of which Bernard speaks so eloquently, and although not all can bind themselves so closely to God as to feel linked in a mysterious manner with the Supreme Good through the bonds of heavenly marriage; nevertheless, all can and must, from time to time, lift their hearts from earthly things to those of heaven, and most earnestly love the Supreme Dispenser of all gifts.

14. Wherefore, since love for God is gradually growing cold to-day in the hearts of many, or is even completely quenched, We feel that these writings of the “Doctor Mellifluus” should be carefully pondered; because from their content, which in fact is taken from the Gospels, a new and heavenly strength can flow both into individual and on into social life, to give moral guidance, bring it into line with Christian precepts, and thus be able to provide timely remedies for the many grave ills which afflict mankind. For, when men do not have the proper love for their Creator, from Whom comes everything they have when they do not love one another, then, as often happens, they are separated from one another by hatred and deceit, and so quarrel bitterly among themselves. Now God is the most loving Father of us all, and we are all brethren in Christ, we whom he redeemed by shedding His precious Blood. Hence, as often as we fail to return God’s love or to recognize His divine fatherhood with all due reverence, the bonds of brotherly love are unfortunately shattered and–as, alas, is so often evident,–discord, strife and enmity unhappily are the result, so much so as to undermine and destroy the very foundations of human society.

15. Hence, that divine love with which the Doctor of Clairvaux was so ardently aflame must be re-enkindled in the hearts of all men, if we desire the restoration of Christian morality, if the Catholic religion is to carry out its mission successfully, and if, through the calming of dissension and the restoration of order, injustice and equity, serene peace is to shine forth on mankind so weary and bewildered.

16. May those who have embraced the Order of the “Doctor Mellifluus,” and all the members of the clergy, whose special task it is to exhort and urge others to a greater love of God, be aglow with that love with which we must always be most passionately united with God. In our own day, more than at any other time–as We have said,–men are in need of this divine love. Family life needs it, mankind needs it. Where it burns and leads souls to God, Who is the supreme goal of all mortals, all other virtues wax strong. When, on the other hand, it is absent or has died out, then quiet, peace, joy, and all other truly good things gradually disappear or are completely destroyed, since they flow from Him who is love itself.[18]

17. Of this divine charity, possibly nobody has spoken more excellently, more profoundly, or more earnestly than Bernard: “The reason for loving God,” as he says, “is God; the measure of this love is to love without measure.”[19] “Where there is love, there is no toil, but delight.”[20] He admits having experienced this love himself when he writes: “O holy and chaste love! O sweet and soothing affection! . . . It is the more soothing and more sweet, the more the whole of that which is experienced is divine. To have such love, means being made like God.”[21] And elsewhere: “It is good for me, O Lord, to embrace Thee all the more in tribulation, to have Thee with me in the furnace of trial rather than to be without Thee even in heaven.”[22] But when he touches upon that supreme and perfect love whereby he is united with God Himself in intimate wedlock, then he enjoys a happiness and a peace, than which none other can be greater; “O place of true rest. . . For we do not here behold God either, as it were, excited with anger, or as though distracted with care; but His will is proved to be ‘good and acceptable and perfect.’ This vision soothes. It does not frighten. It lulls to rest, instead of awakening our unquiet curiosity. It calms the mind instead of tiring it. Here is found perfect rest. God’s quiet quietens all about Him. To think of His rest is to give rest to the soul.”[23]

18. However, this perfect quiet is not the death of the mind but its true life. “. . . Instead of bringing darkness and lethargy, the sleep of the Spouse is wakeful and life-giving; it enlightens the mind, expels the death of sin, and bestows immortality. Nevertheless, it is indeed a sleep, which transports rather than stupefies the faculties. It is a true death. This I affirm without the least hesitation, since the Apostle says, in commendation of some who were still living in the flesh,[24] ‘You are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God’.”[25]

19. This perfect quiet of the mind, in which we enjoy the loving God by returning His love, and by which we turn and direct ourselves and all we have to Him, does not make us lazy and slothful. Rather it is a constant, effective and active zeal that spurs us on to look to our own salvation, and, with the help of God, to that of others also. For this lofty contemplation and meditation, which is brought about by divine love, “regulates the affections, directs the actions, cuts away all excesses, forms the character, orders and ennobles the life, and lastly. . . endows the understanding with a knowledge of things divine and human. It . . . undoes what is tangled, unites what is divided, gathers what is scattered, uncovers what is hidden, searches out what is false and deceptive. It . . . lays down beforehand what we have to do, and passes in review what has been accomplished, so that nothing disordered may remain in the mind, nothing uncorrected. Finally . . . it makes provision for trouble, and thus endures misfortune, so to say, without feeling it, of which the former is the part of prudence, and the latter the function of fortitude.”[26]

20. In fact, although he longs to remain fixed in this most exalted and sweet contemplation and meditation, nourished by the Spirit of God, the Doctor of Clairvaux does not remain enclosed within the walls of his cell that “waxes sweet by being dwelled in,”[27] but is a hand with counsel, word and action wherever the interests of God and Church are at stake. For he was wont to observe that “no one ought to live for himself alone, but all for all.”[28] And moreover, he wrote about himself and his followers: “In like manner, the laws of brotherliness and of human society give our brethren, amongst whom we live, a claim upon us for counsel and help.”[29] When, with sorrowing mind, he beheld the holy faith endangered or troubled, he spared neither toil, nor journeyings, nor any manner of pains to come stoutly to its defense, or to bring it whatever assistance he could. “I do not regard any of the affairs of God,” he said, “as things with which I have no concern.”[30] And to Saint Louis of France he penned these spirited words: “We sons of the Church, cannot on any account overlook the injuries done to our mother, and the way in which she is despised and trodden under foot. . . We will certainly make a stand and fight even to death, if need be, for our mother, with the weapons allowed us; not with shield and sword, but with prayers and lamentations to God.”[31]

21. To Abbot Peter of Cluny he wrote: “And I glory in tribulations if I have been counted worthy to endure any for the sake of the Church. This, truly, is my glory and the lifting up of my head: the triumph of the Church. For if we have been sharers of her troubles, we shall be also of her consolation. We must work and suffer with our mother.”[32]

22. When the mystical body of Christ was torn by so grave a schism, that even good men on both sides became heated in dispute, he bent all his efforts to settling disagreements and happily restoring unity of mind. When princes, led by desire of earthly dominion, were divided by fearful quarrels, and the welfare of nations was thereby seriously threatened, he was ever the peacemaker and the architect of agreement. When, finally, the holy places of Palestine, hallowed by the blood of our Divine Savior, were threatened with gravest danger, and were hard pressed by foreign armies, at the command of the Supreme Pontiff, with loud voice and a still wider appeal of love, he roused Christian princes and peoples to undertake a new crusade; and if indeed it was not brought to a successful conclusion, the fault was surely not his.

23. And above all, when the integrity of Catholic faith and morals – the sacred heritage handed down by our forefathers – was jeopardized, especially by the activities of Abelard, Arnold of Brescia and Gilbert de la Poree, strong in the grace of God he spared no pains in writing works full of penetrating wisdom and making tiring journeys, so that errors might be dispelled and condemned, and the victims of error might as far as possible be recalled to the straight path and to virtuous living.

24. Yet, since he was well aware that in matters of this kind the authority of the Roman Pontiff prevails over the opinions of learned men, he took care to call attention to that authority which he recognized as supreme and infallible in settling such questions. To his former disciple, our predecessor of blessed memory Eugene III, he wrote these words which reflect at once his exceeding great love and reverence and that familiarity which becomes the saints: “Parental love knows nothing of lordship, it recognizes not a master but a child even in him who wears the tiara . . . Therefore shall I admonish thee now, not as a master, but as a mother, yea, as a most loving mother.”[33]

25. Then he addresses to him these powerful words: “Who art thou.? Thou art the High Priest and the Sovereign Pontiff. Thou art the prince of pastors and the heir of the apostles . . . by thy jurisdiction, a Peter; and by thy unction, a Christ. Thou art he to whom the keys have been delivered and the sheep entrusted. There are indeed other gate-keepers of heaven, and there are other shepherds of the flock; but thou art in both respects more glorious than they in proportion as thou hast inherited a more excellent name. They have assigned to them particular portions of the flock, his own to each; whereas thou art given charge of all the sheep, as the one Chief Shepherd of the whole flock. Yea, not only of the sheep, but of the other pastors also art thou the sole supreme Shepherd.”[34] And again: “He who wishes to discover something which does not belong to thy charge, will have to go outside the world.”[35]

26. In clear and simple fashion he acknowledges the infallible magisterium of the Roman Pontiff in questions of faith and morals. For, recognizing the errors of Abelard, who when he “speaks of the Trinity savors of Arius; when of grace, of Pelagius; when of the person of Christ, of Nestorious,”[36] “who . . . predicated degrees in the Trinity, measure in majesty, numbers in eternity”;[37] and in whom “human reason usurps for itself everything, leaving nothing for faith”;[38] he not only shatters, weakens and refutes his subtle, specious and fallacious tricks and sophisms, but also, on this subject, writes to Our predecessor of immortal memory, Innocent II, these words of utmost importance: “Your See should be informed of all dangers that may arise, especially those that touch faith. For I consider it meet that damage to the faith be repaired in the particular place where faith is perfectly whole. These indeed are the prerogatives of this See. . . It is time, most loving Father, that you recognized your pre-eminence. Then do you really take the place of Peter, whose See you hold, when by your admonitions you strengthen hearts weak in faith; when, by your authority, you break those who corrupt the faith.”[39]

27. How it was that this humble monk, with hardly any human means at his disposal, was able to draw the strength to overcome difficulties so thorny, to settle questions so intricate, and to solve the most troublesome cases, can only be understood when one considers the great holiness of life which distinguished him, and his great zeal for truth. For, as We have said, he was, above all, on fire with a most burning love of God and his neighbor (which as you know, Venerable Brethren, is the chief and, as it were, all embracing commandment of the gospel), so that he was, not only united to the heavenly father by an unfailing mystical bond, but he desired nothing more than to win men to Christ, to uphold the most sacred rights of the Church, and to defend as best he could the integrity of the Catholic faith.

28. Although he was held in great favor and esteem by Popes, princes and peoples, he was not puffed up, he did not grasp at the slippery and empty glory of men, but ever shone with that Christian humility which “acquires other virtues . . . having acquired them, keeps them . . . keeping them, perfects them”;[39] so that “without it the others do not even seem to be virtues.”[40] Wherefore “proffered honor did not even seem to be virtues.”[41] Wherefore “proffered honor did not tempt his soul, nor did he set his foot on the downward path of world glory; and the tiara and ring delighted him no more than the lecture platform and garden hoe.”[42] And while he undertook so often such great labors for the glory of God and the benefit of the Christian name, he was wont to call himself “the useless servant of the servants of God,”[43] “a vile worm,”[44] “a barren tree,”[45] “a sinner, ashes. . .”[46] This Christian humility, together with the other virtues, he nourished by diligent contemplation of heavenly things, and by fervent prayer to God, by which he called down grace from on high on the labors undertaken by himself and his followers.

29. So burning was his love, particularly of Jesus Christ Our Divine Savior, that, loved thereby, he penned the beautiful and lofty pages which still arouse the admiration and enkindle the devotion of all readers. “What can so enrich the soul that reflects upon it (the holy name of Jesus)? What can . . . strengthen the virtues, beget good and honorable dispositions, foster holy affections? Dry is every kind of spiritual food which this oil does not moisten. Tasteless, whatever this salt does not season. If thou writest, thy composition has no charms for me, unless I read there the name of Jesus. If thou dost debate or converse, I find no pleasure in thy words, unless I hear there the name of Jesus. Jesus is honey on the lips, melody in the ear, joy in the heart. Yet not alone is that name light and food. It is also a remedy. Is any one amongst you sad? Let the name of Jesus enter his heart; let it leap thence to his mouth; and lo! the light shining from that name shall scatter every cloud and restore peace. Has some one perpetrated a crime, and then misled, moved despairingly towards the snare of death? Let him but invoke this life-giving name, and straightway he shall find courage once more. . . Whoever, all a-tremble in the presence of danger, has not immediately felt his spirits revive and his fears depart as soon as he called upon this name of power? There is nothing so powerful as the name of Jesus to check anger, reduce the swelling of pride, heal the smarting wound of envy. . .”[47]

30. To this warm love of Jesus Christ was joined a most sweet and tender devotion towards His glorious Mother, whose motherly love he repaid with the affection of a child, and whom he jealously honored. So great was his confidence in her most powerful intercession, that he did not hesitate to write: “It is the will of God that we should have nothing which has not passed through the hands of Mary.”[48] Likewise: “Such is the will of God, Who would have us obtain everything through the hands of Mary.”[49]

31. And here it is well, Venerable Brethren, to bid you all consider a page in praise of Mary than which there is perhaps none more beautiful, more moving, more apt to excite love for her, more useful to stir devotion and to inspire imitation of her virtuous example: “Mary . . . is interpreted to mean ‘Star of the Sea.’ This admirably befits the Virgin Mother. There is indeed a wonderful appropriateness in this comparison of her with a star, because as a star sends out its rays without harm to itself, so did the Virgin bring forth her Child without injury to her integrity. And as the ray does not diminish the rightness of the star, so neither did the Child born of her tarnish the beauty of Mary’s virginity. She is therefore that glorious star, which, as the prophet said, arose out of Jacob, whose ray enlightens the whole earth, whose splendor shines out for all to see in heaven and reaches even unto hell. . . She, I say, is that shining and brilliant star, so much needed, set in place above life’s great and spacious sea, glittering with merits, all aglow with examples for our imitation. Oh, whosoever thou art that perceiveth thyself during this mortal existence to be rather drifting in treacherous waters, at the mercy of the winds and the waves, than walking on firm ground, turn not away thine eyes from the splendor of this guiding star, unless thou wish to be submerged by the storm! When the storms to temptation burst upon thee, when thou seest thyself driven upon the rocks of tribulation, look at the star, call upon Mary. When buffeted by the billows of pride, or ambition, or hatred, or jealousy, look at the star, call upon Mary. Should anger, or avarice, or fleshly desire violently assail the frail vessel of thy soul, look at the star, call upon Mary. If troubled on account of the heinousness of thy sins, distressed at the filthy state of thy conscience, and terrified at the thought of the awful judgment to come, thou art beginning to sink into the bottomless gulf of sadness and to be swallowed in the abyss of despair, then think of Mary. In dangers, in doubts, in difficulties, think of Mary, call upon Mary. Let not her name leave thy lips, never suffer it to leave thy heart. And that thou mayest more surely obtain the assistance of her prayer, see that thou dost walk in her footsteps. With her for guide, thou shalt never go astray; whilst invoking her, thou shalt never lose heart; so long as she is in thy mind, thou shalt not be deceived; whilst she holds thy hand, thou canst not fall; under her protection, thou hast nothing to fear; if she walks before thee, thou shalt not grow weary; if she shows thee favor, thou shalt reach the goal.”[50]

32. We can think of no better way to conclude this Encyclical Letter than in the words of the “Doctor Mellifluus” to invite all to be more and more devout to the loving Mother of God, and each in his respective state in life to strive to imitate her exalted virtues. If at the beginning of the twelfth century grave dangers threatened the Church and human society, the perils besetting our own age are hardly less formidable. The Catholic faith, supreme solace of mankind, often languishes in souls, and in many regions and countries is even subjected to the bitterest public attacks. With the Christian religion either neglected or cruelly destroyed, morals, both public and private, clearly stray from the straight way, and, following the tortuous path of error, end miserably in vice.

33. Charity, which is the bond of perfection, concord and peace, is replaced by hatred, enmities and discords.

34. A certain restlessness, anxiety and fear have invaded the minds of men. It is indeed to be greatly feared that if the light of the Gospel gradually fades and wanes in the minds of many, or if–what is even worse,–they utterly reject it, the very foundations of civil and domestic society will collapse, and more evil times will unhappily result.

35. Therefore, as the Doctor of Clairvaux sought and obtained from the Virgin Mother Mary help for the troubles of his times, let us all through the same great devotion and prayer so strive to move our divine Mother, that she will obtain from God timely relief from these grave evils which are either already upon us or may yet befall, and that she who is at once kind and most powerful, will, by the help of God, grant that the true, lasting, and fruitful peace of the Church may at last dawn on all nations and peoples.

36. Such, We hope, through the intercession of Bernard, may be the rich and wholesome effects of the centenary celebration of his most holy death. Do you, all, join Us in prayer for this intention, and as you study and ponder on the example of the “Doctor Mellifluus,” strive earnestly and eagerly to follow his footsteps.

Now as a pledge of these benefits We bestow with heartfelt affection upon you, Venerable Brothers, upon the flocks entrusted to you, and particularly on those who have embraced the Institute of Saint Bernard, the Apostolic Blessing.

Given at Rome, Saint Peter’s, on the 24th of May, on the feast of Pentecost, 1953, in the 15th year of our pontificate.


REFERENCES

  1. Mabillon, Bernardi Opera, Praef, generalis, n. 23; Migne, P. L., CLXXXII, 26.
  2. Litt. Apost. Contigit olim, XV Kal. Feb., 1174, Anagniae d.
  3. Annal., t. XII, An. 1153, p. 385, D-E; Rome, ex Tipografia Vaticana, 1907.
  4. Cf. Serm. in Festo SS. Apost. Petri et Pauli n. 3; Migne, P. L., CLXXXIII, 407, and Serm. 3, in Festo Pentec., n, 5; Migne, P. L., CLXXXIII, 332-b.
  5. Cf. 1 Cor., viii, 2.
  6. In Cantica, Serm. XXXVI, 3; Migne, P. L., CLXXXIII, 968c,-d.
  7. Ibid., Serm. VIII, 6; Migne, P. L., CLXXXIII, 813-a, b.
  8. Ibid., Serm. LXIX, 2; Migne, P. L., CLXXXIII, 1113-a.
  9. In Nat. S. Joan. Bapt., Serm. 3; Migne, P. L., CLXXXIII, 399-b.
  10. In Cantica, Serm. XIX, 7; Migne, P. L., CLXXXIII, 866-d.
  11. Cfr. Brev. Rom. in festo SS. Nom. Jesu; die III infra octavam Concept. immac. B.M.V.; in octava Assumpt. B.M.V.; in festo septem Dolor. B.M.V.; in festo sacrat. Rosarii B.M.V.; in festo S. Josephi Sp. B.M.V.; in festo S. Gabrielis Arch.
  12. Cfr. Fenelon, Panegyrique de Saint Bernard.
  13. In Cantica, Serm. LXXXIII, I; Migne, P. L., CLXXXIII, 1181-c, d.
  14. Ibid., 3; Migne, P. L., CLXXXIII, 1182-c, d.
  15. Ibid., 4; Migne, P. L., CLXXXIII, 1183-b.
  16. Cf. I Cor., vi, 17.
  17. In Cantica Serm. LXXXIII, 6; Migne, P. L., CLXXXIII, I 1 84-c.
  18. I John iv, 8.
  19. De Diligendo Deo, c. L., Migne, P. L., CLXXXII, 974-a.
  20. In Cantica, Serm. LXXXV, 8; Migne, P. L., CLXXXIII, 1 191-d.
  21. De Diligendo Deo, c. X, 28; Migne, P. L., CLXXXIII, 99 1 -a.
  22. In Ps. CLXXXX, Serm. XVII, 4; Migne, P. L., CLXXXIII, 252-c.
  23. In Cantica, Serm. XXIII, 16; Migne, P. L., CLXXXIII, 893-a, b.
  24. Col., iii, 3.
  25. In Cantica, Serm. LII, 3; Migne, P. L., CLXXXIII, 1031 a.
  26. De Consid. 1, c. 7; Migne, P. L., CLXXXIl, 737-a, b.
  27. De Imit. Christi, 1, 20, 5.
  28. In Cantica, serm. XLI, 6; Migne, P. L., CLXXXLI, 987-b.
  29. De adventu D., serm. III, 5; Migne, P. L., CLXXXIII, 45-d.
  30. Epist. 20 (ad Card. Haimericum); Migne, P. L., CLXXXII 123-b.
  31. Epist. 221 3; Migne, P. L., CLXXXII, 386-d, 387-a.
  32. Epist. 147, 1; Migne, P. L., CLXXXII, 304-c, 305-a.
  33. De Consid., Prolog.; Migne, P. L., CLXXXII, 727-a, 728-a,b .
  34. Ibid., II, c. 8; Migne, P. L., CLXXXII, 751-c, d.
  35. Ibid., III, c. L Migne, P. L., CLXXXII, 757-b.
  36. Epist. 192; Migne, P. L., CLXXXII, 358-d, 359-a.
  37. De error. Abaelardi, 1, 2; Migne, P. L., CLXXXII, 1056-a.
  38. Epist. 188; Migne, P. L., CLXXXIl, 353-a, b.
  39. De error. Abaelardi, Praef.; Migne, P. L., CLXXXII, 1053, 1054-d.
  40. De monbus et off. Episc., seu Epist. 42, 5, 17; Migne, P.L., CLXXXII, 821-a.
  41. Ibid.
  42. Vita Prima, II. 25; Migne, P. L., CLXXXV, 283-b.
  43. Epist., 37; Migne, P. L., CLXXXII, 143-b.
  44. Epist., 215; Migne, P. L., CLXXXII, 379-b.
  45. Vita prima, V. 12; Migne, P. L., CLXXXV, 358-d.
  46. In Cantica, Serm. LXXI, 5; Migne, P. L., CLXXXIII, I 1 23-d.
  47. In Cantica, Serm. XV, 6; Migne, P. L., CLXXXIII, 846-d, 847-a, b.
  48. In vigil. Nat. Domini, Serm. III, 10; Migne, P. L., CLXXXIII, 100-a.
  49. Serm. in Nat, Mariae, 7; Migne, P. L., CLXXXIII, 441-b.
  50. Hom. II super “Missus est,” 17; Migne, P. L., CLXXXIII, 70-b, c, d, 71-a.
SOURCE : https://catholicsaints.info/pope-pius-xii-doctor-mellifluus-on-saint-bernard-of-clairvaux-the-last-of-the-fathers-24-may-1953/


Illustration du Liber de sancto Benedicto (ca 1437) - Jean de Stavelot (1388-1449)

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux – The Holy Guardian Angels


“He hath given his angels charge over thee.” O wonderful bounty and truly great love of charity! Who? For whom? Wherefore? What has He commanded? Let us study closely, brethren, and let us diligently commit to our memory this great mandate. Who is it that commands? Whose angels are they? Whose mandates do they fulfill? Whose will do they obey? In answer, “He hath given his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.” And they do not hesitate even to life thee up in their hands.

So the Supreme Majesty has given charge to the angels. Yes, He has given charge to His own angels. Think of it! To those sublime beings, who cling to Him so joyfully and intimately, to His very own He has given charge over you! Who are you? “What is man that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man that thou visitest him?” As if man were not rottenness, and the son of man a worm! Now why, do you think, he Has given them charge over thee? — To guard thee!

With what great reverence should you treat this word! What devotion should you proffer it; what great confidence should you place in it. Reverence because of their presence; devotion because of their benevolence; confidence because of their solicitude. Walk carefully, in all thy ways, as one with whom the angels are present as He has given them charge. In every lodging, at every corner, have reverence for thy Angel. Do not dare to do in his presence what you would not dare to do if I were there. Or do you doubt that he is present whom you do not behold? What if you should hear him? What if you should touch him? What if you should scent him? Remember that the presence of something is not proved only by the sight of things.

In this, therefore, brethren, let us affectionately love His angels as one day our future coheirs; meanwhile, however, as counselors and defenders appointed by the Father and placed over us. Why should we fear under such guardians? Those who keep us in all our ways can neither be overcome nor be deceived, much less deceive. They are faithful; they are prudent; they are powerful; why do we tremble? Let us only follow them, let us remain close to them, and in the protection of the God of heaven let us abide. As often, therefore, as a most serious temptation is perceived to weigh upon you and an excessive trial is threatening, call to your guard, your leader, your helper in your needs, in your tribulation; cry to him and say: “Lord, save us; we perish!”



Memorare


Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thy intercession was left unaided. Inspired with this confidence, I fly to thee, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother; to thee do I come; before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me. Amen.

Memorare, O piissima Virgo Maria, non esse auditum a saeculo, quemquam ad tua currentem praesidia, tua implorantem auxilia, tua petentem suffragia, esse derelictum. Ego tali animatus confidentia, ad te, Virgo Virginum, Mater, curro, ad te venio, coram te gemens peccator assisto. Noli, Mater Verbi, verba mea despicere; sed audi propitia et exaudi. Amen.


The Proper Office of the Saints – Saint Bernard, Abbat of Clairvaux, Confessor and Doctor of the Church, 20 August


Bernard was born in the year of salvation 1091 at a decent place in Burgundy called Fontaines. On account of extraordinary good looks, he was as a boy very much sought after by women, but he could never be turned aside from his resolution to keep chaste. To fly from these temptations of the devil, he determined at two-and-twenty years of age to enter the Monastery of Citeaux, whence the Cistercian Order took its rise. When this resolution of Bernard’s became known, his brothers did all their diligence to change his purpose, but he only became the more eloquent and happy about it. Them and others he so brought over to his mind, that thirty young men entered the same Order along with him. As a monk he was so given to fasting, that as often as he had to eat, so often he seemed to be in pain. He exercised himself wonderfully in watching and prayer, and was a great lover of Christian poverty. Thus he led on earth an heavenly life, purged of all care and desire for transitory things.

He was a burning and shining light of lowliness, mercifulness, and kindness. His concentration of thought was such, that he hardly used his senses except to do good works, in which latter he acted with admirable wisdom. Thus occupied, he refused the Bishoprics of Genoa, Milan, and others, which were offered to him, declaring that he was unworthy of so high a sphere of duty. Being made Abbat of Clairvaux in 1115, he built monasteries in many places, wherein the excellent rules and discipline of Bernard long flourished. When Pope Innocent II, in 1138, restored the monastery of Saint Vincent and Saint Anastasius at Rome, Bernard set over it the Abbat who was afterwards the Supreme Pontiff” Eugene III, and who is also the same to whom he addressed his book upon “Consideration.”

He was the author of many writings, in which it is manifest that his teaching was rather given him of God, than gained by hard work. In consequence of his high reputation for excellence, he was called by the most exalted Princes to act as arbiter of their disputes, and for this end, and to settle affairs of the Church, he often went to Italy. He was an eminent helper to Pope Innocent II, in putting down the schism of Peter Leoni, and worked to this end, both at the Courts of the Emperor and of Henry King of England, and in the Council of Pisa. He fell asleep in the Lord, at Clairvaux, on the 20th day of August, in the year 1153, the sixty-third year of his age. He was famous for miracles, and Pope Alexander III numbered him among the Saints. Pope Pius VIII, acting on the advice of the Congregation of Sacred Rites, declared and confirmed Saint Bernard a Doctor of the Universal Church. He also commanded that all should use the Mass and Office for him as for a Doctor, and granted perpetual yearly plenary indulgences to all who should visit Churches of the Cistercian Order upon the Feastday of this Saint.

– from The Roman Breviary, translated by John Patrick Crichton-Stuart, 1908



A Garner of Saints – Saint Bernard


Article

Born at Fontaine, near Dijon, in 1091. His parents had six sons, who all became monks, and one daughter, who took the veil. Though his mother dedicated all her children to God, she looked upon Bernard as one specially devoted. As he grew up Bernard determined to cure himself of carnal desires, and on one occasion he plunged into ice cold water to conquer temptation, and he afterwards exhibited many proofs of his unassailable chastity. After studying at Paris he entered the monastery of Citeaux. His devotion to the Virgin was always extreme, and on one occasion as he was writing his homilies his health was so feeble that he could scarcely hold the pen, when he received a vision of the Madonna who had come to comfort and restore him by her presence. At the age of twenty-five he was sent by the abbot to establish a new settlement of monks, and this led to the foundation of the abbey of Clairvaux. The abbey soon became famous throughout Christendom owing to his piety and ability. On one occasion, when his habit fell into the fire, he took it uninjured from the flames. Every morning he read to his monks some passage of Scripture, and addressed them upon it. The task of preaching the second crusade was entrusted to him by Pope Eugenius III, and his eloquence drew thousands to flock to the banner of the cross. His preaching took him to Spires, where he entered the cathedral, accompanied by the Emperor Conrad and a retinue of nobles and prelates, and there he knelt three times as he approached the altar. His sister, who had married a rich man, once came to visit her brothers in the monastery. She arrived in great pomp, and Bernard refused to see her. The other brothers also refused, and bursting into tears, she asked what she should do. Bernard then came with the other brothers, and told her to give up all worldly pomp, and imitate her mother. She returned and completely altered her way of life, and at length by her prayers, overcame her husband’s resistance. and entered a nunnery. Worn out by his labours, Bernard retired to his cell, and died in the year 1153, at the age of sixty-two. He wrote a number of theological works, and was at one time engaged in a lively controversy with Abelard. 20th August.

Attributes
  • Wears the Cistercian habit and carries a cross in his hand, or else a book, papers, or pen and ink-horn.
  • Occasionally a fettered demon lies at his feet.
MLA Citation
  • Allen Banks Hinds, M.A. “Saint Bernard”. A Garner of Saints1900CatholicSaints.Info. 17 April 2017. Web. 19 August 2020. <https://catholicsaints.info/a-garner-of-saints-saint-bernard/>

Weninger’s Lives of the Saints – Saint Bernard


Article

Saint Bernard, illustrious throughout the whole Christian world for his great learning, holiness and miracles, was born of very pious parents who had, besides him, six sons and one daughter. Before he was born, his mother dreamed that she was bearing a dog, which barked while still in the womb. The priest to whom she related this, said: “Fear not; you will give birth to a child, who will enter the religious state, watch over the Church of God, combat her enemies, and heal the wounds of many with his tongue.” The mother was greatly comforted, and when her child was born, she endeavored to educate him most carefully. To her great joy, she perceived that, early in childhood, he possessed a most tender love for God and the Blessed Virgin, a great horror for sin, a most watchful care to preserve his innocence and purity, a great contempt for all temporal goods, and a high esteem of all that related to God and the salvation of souls. One day, while still a small boy, he suffered intensely from headache; and when a woman came to him to pronounce some superstitious words over him, the pious child, perceiving her intentions, leaped out of bed and drove her from the room, saying that he would rather die of pain than be relieved by sin. The Almighty recompensed this heroic conduct by immediately relieving him of his pain. In his early youth, he was visited by the Infant Jesus, one Christmas eve, from which dates the tender love Saint Bernard always felt for the Saviour. Having early lost his pious mother, he had much to suffer from wicked persons on account of his manly beauty. He always showed himself brave, however, and either escaped by flight, or drove away those who endeavored to tempt him to sin, or saved himself by loudly calling for help. An unchaste person had, one day, secretly entered the chamber of the youth to tempt him. Bernard immediately cried out: “Murder! Murder!” Those who came to his rescue, on seeing no one who would kill him, asked him why he called for help. “Are they then no murderers who endeavor to rob me of the priceless treasure of my purity, and thus deprive my soul of life everlasting?” said the pious youth. To guard this treasure more securely, he prayed with the greatest devotion, most carefully controlled his senses, especially his eyes, severely chastised his body, and cherished a filial love for the Blessed Virgin. One day, contrary to his resolution, he had imprudently looked upon something impure. No sooner did he perceive his fault, than he sprang into the river, though it was in the depth of winter, and remained there until he was almost frozen. In this manner he punished himself, and God delivered him, from that moment, from all impure temptations. This occurrence was a great incentive to the young man to enter the religious state as soon as possible, in order to be more removed from the danger of losing his purity. His brothers and other relatives tried to dissuade him, but by his eloquent descriptions of the vanities of this world, he persuaded his uncle and four of his brothers to enter with him, into the Cistercian Order, founded by Saint Robert. While on the way to the monastery with thirty of his companions, he met his youngest brother, Nivard, playing with some companions of his own age. Guido, the eldest brother said to him; “Nivard, we are going into the convent now, and leave you sole heir to all our property.” Inspired by the Almighty, Nivard replied: “Ah! you intend to keep Heaven for yourselves and leave the earth to me. This division is too unequal.” He resolved to follow his brothers, and arrived at the convent a few days later. Hardly had Saint Bernard entered the novitiate, when he became a model of monastic perfection. Pages could be filled with the description of his virtues, his humility, his severity towards himself, his love for God and man, his devotion at prayer. He was no less remarkable for his wisdom and the talents with which he was gifted. Hence, his abbot, Saint Stephen, soon sent him to found and govern the monastery of Clairvaux. Bernard, still young, delicate in health and inexperienced in the duties of a superior, hesitated to accept the charge, but was obliged to obey. In the new convent, besides many other difficulties, he had to battle with poverty; but the Almighty often came to the relief of His faithful servant by miracle, and also inspired many to seek his direction in the religious life. Among these, was Bernard’s own father. Henry, brother of the King of France, who visited the cloister, was, by a few words of its abbot, persuaded to take the habit. The sister of Saint Bernard was the only one left in the world, and though she was leading a life of pleasure and dissipation, he induced her to make the same resolution. The prayers which he offered for her, and his earnest exhortations won her from the vanities of the world and induced her to turn her heart to God. The holy abbot at first ruled those under him rather severely; but having received a divine admonition, he was more lenient. He won the affection of all under his charge, and made them willing to obey him; moreover, he was an example to them in everything. Towards himself he continued his rigor to the end, in fasting, penances, scourgings and long vigils.

When he occasionally perceived in himself the least indolence, he would reanimate himself by saying; “Bernard, why art thou here?” Meanwhile, his fame spread throughout all countries, and everywhere people spoke of his great knowledge and experience. Several Episcopal sees were offered to him, which he always humbly declined, under the plea of his incapacity to fill so high an office. At the time of the great schism, which took place at a papal election, he was invited to attend the council, and to him was left the decision of the important question, whether Innocent II or Peter Leo, who took the name of Anaclet, should be recognized as the lawful pope. After mature deliberation and many fervent prayers, the Saint gave his decision, and all submitted to it. Henry, King of England, who favored the anti-pope, was induced by Saint Bernard to recognize and protect Innocent II. He had more difficulty in persuading William, duke of Guienne, to do penance for his iniquities and obey the true pope; but he succeeded. Many other important questions were decided by him to the great benefit of the church. One of the most difficult undertakings imposed on him by the Sovereign Pontiff was to unite all the crowned heads of Europe in a crusade against the Saracens. Saint Bernard obeyed the papal order; and when he exhorted the people to go on the crusade, God worked through him such miracles, that all were convinced that the project was agreeable to the Almighty. When, however, the expedition had failed, the holy man was everywhere calumniated, derided, persecuted. Bernard bore it all with great patience, and said: “It is better that they murmur against me than against God. I do not care if they impair my honor, so that the honor of the Almighty remains inviolate.” God defended the name of His faithful servant by many new miracles, which not only closed the mouths of his slanderers, but placed him higher in the estimation of every one than ever before. There are few Saints of whom so many and so well authenticated miracles are recorded, as of Saint Bernard. It is well known that, at Constance, he gave sight to eleven who were blind, restored the use of their hands to ten, and of their feet to eighteen. At Cologne, three who were dumb, ten deaf, and twelve lame were miraculously healed. At Spire, he performed similar miracles. Countless sick persons recovered their health by partaking of the bread he had blessed. Besides this, he relieved many who were possessed of the Evil One, and had the gift of prophecy. We must omit the details of all this, to say a few words of his happy end. The holy man, already completely exhausted by his many journeys, penances, and illnesses, was seized with a painful malady. He could retain no food whatever, while he suffered, at the same time, from swelling of the feet and other disorders. He bore it all not only with patience but with cheerfulness, and received the holy sacraments with great devotion. Many prelates of the church and other persons of distinction visited him and sympathized with him on account of his sufferings; but he answered; “I am a useless servant; an old barren tree ought to be felled and uprooted.” Amidst the tears of all present, he yielded up his soul to God, at the age of 64, in the year 1153, having founded one hundred and sixty convents, written a great many works against heresies, in defence of the Catholic faith, and for the instruction of the faithful, and performed many other works for the welfare of the church and the salvation of souls. At Spire, a miraculous picture of the Blessed Virgin is still preserved, before which Saint Bernard, one day, three times bowed his knees, exclaiming: “O gracious, O mild, O sweet Virgin Mary,” and when he said: “I salute thee, Queen of Heaven,” a voice came from the picture distinctly saying: “I salute thee, Bernard.” In another city, a crucifix is shown, before which Saint Bernard was fervently praying, when the Saviour stretched out His arms to embrace His faithful servant. Many other great favors which God granted to this Saint are to be found in the histories of his life. His works abound with the most wholesome advice to all classes of people. Often and emphatically he admonishes all to love God, to honor the Blessed Virgin and ask her intercession, and to practise good works.



Practical Considerations

A great deal is to be found in the life of this Saint, which ought to inspire us to imitate him. I will here place a few of the principal points before you.

• Saint Bernard, when only a boy, would not allow any one to alleviate or cure a headache by superstitious means. Take care that you never resort to superstitious practices in sickness or on other occasions; for, it is committing a great sin against God. If you doubt whether a thing is superstitious or not, ask some priest before using it.

• Saint Bernard looked upon those who would tempt him to sin, as murderers, and called for help, as if; his life had been in danger. May you so regard those who tempt you to sin; for, they are murderers, because they seek to kill the spiritual life of your soul, and place you in danger of forfeiting eternal life and happiness. Therefore treat them as assassins. We do not laugh and jest with a murderer, but we call for help and defend ourselves with all our might. Earnest and brave must we show ourselves when we are tempted to do wrong. God commanded His people, in the Old Testament, to stone a fallen woman together with her seducer. Why? “Because she cried not out, being in the city.” (Deuteronomy 22) She ought to have cried out; but not doing this was a sign that she did not seriously desire to defend herself.

• This holy man punished an unguarded look at something impure, by throwing himself into the river and remaining there till he was almost frozen. He shows by this, that those who would lead a chaste life must carefully guard their eyes. What shall we say then of looking curiously or unnecessarily at the other sex, or at obscene pictures or certain imagery?

• Saint Bernard induced many, by his example and exhortations, to embrace the religious life. A zealous servant of God is not content with serving the Almighty himself, but seeks also, by his words and example, to lead others to the same path.

• When he was tempted to weariness in the service of God, he reanimated himself by saying: “Bernard, why art you here?” Animate yourself in a similar manner, by recalling the destiny for which you were born, and ask yourself: “Why am I upon earth? For what was I created?”

• Saint Bernard bore, with great patience, the derision and persecutions which he had to suffer on account of the unhappy end of the war to which he had called and encouraged the Christian princes, Do not regret too deeply if your plans and undertakings do not succeed as you expected. Be not disturbed if others mock you and persecute you.

• Saint Bernard regarded himself as a useless servant, as a barren tree which deserved to be cut down; so deep was his humility. How then can you feel so elated, when you have done some good action? Ought you not to have done much more? Should not your laziness, your negligence humble you before God?

• The holy man, by founding one hundred and sixty convents, left many servants of the Lord, and by his books, many wholesome instructions which are yet very beneficial to all who read them. Take care that when you die, you do not leave the spirit of Satan in your children or in those whom you scandalized or tempted to do wrong. Especially, leave no obscene books or pictures which may be occasion of sin to others. Furthermore, Saint Bernard was remarkable for his devotion to the Blessed Virgin. He called to Her in all his trials, and advised others to do the same, as is evident from his sermons. “Let us, says he, venerate Mary. It is the will of Him, who wishes that we should receive everything through her. In danger, in anxiety, in doubt, think of Mary, call to her.” Somewhere else he says: “Let us have admittance to thy Son through thee, thou giver of graces, O Mother of life, O Mother of salvation.” Follow the Saint’s advice and example in this, and you will live free from sin, under the protection of Mary; find help in all your needs, and most surely gain your salvation.

MLA Citation
  • Father Francis Xavier Weninger, DD, SJ. “Saint Bernard”. Lives of the Saints1876CatholicSaints.Info. 11 April 2018. Web. 20 August 2020. <https://catholicsaints.info/weningers-lives-of-the-saints-saint-bernard/>


Pictorial Lives of the Saints – Saint Bernard of Clairvaux


Bernard was born at the castle of Fontaines, in Burgundy. The grace of his person and the vigor of his intellect filled his parents with the highest hopes, and the world lay bright and smiling before him when he renounced it forever and joined the monks of Citeaux. All his brothers followed Bernard to Citeaux except Nivard, the youngest, who was left to be the stay of his father in his old age. “You will now be heir of every thing,” said they to him, as they departed. “Yes,” said the boy; “you leave me earth, and keep heaven for yourselves; do you call that fair?” And he too left the world. At length their aged father came to exchange wealth and honor for the poverty of a monk of Clairvaux. One only sister remained behind; she was married, and loved the world and its pleasures. Magnificently dressed, she visited Bernard; he refused to see her, and only at last consented to do so, not as her brother, but as the minister of Christ. The words he then spoke moved her so much that, two years Ater, she retired to a convent with her husband’s consent, and diefl in the reputation of sanctity. Bernard’s holy example attracted so many novices that other monasteries were erected, and our Saint was appointed abbot of that of Clairvaux. Unsparing with himself, he at first expected too much of his brethren, who were disheartened at his severity; but soon perceiving his error, he led them forward, by the sweetness of his correction and the mildness of his rule, to wonderful perfection. In spite of his desire to lie hid, the fame of his sanctity spread far and wide, and many churches asked for him as their Bishop. Through the help of Blessed Eugenius III, his former subject, he escaped this dignity; yet his retirement was continually invaded: the poor and the weak sought his protection; bishops, kings, and popes applied to him for advice; and at length Eugenius himself charged him to preach the crusade. By his fervor, eloquence, and miracles, Bernard kindled the enthusiasm of Christendom, and two splendid armies were despatched against the infidel. Their defeat was only due, said the Saint, to their own sins. Bernard died 1153. His most precious writings have earned for him the titles of the last of the Fathers and a Doctor of Holy Church.

Reflection – Saint Bernard used to say to those who applied for admission to the monastery, “If you desire to enter here, leave at the threshold the body you have brought with you from the world; here there is room only for your soul.” Let us constantly ask ourselves Saint Bernard’s daily question, “To what end didst thou come hither?”



Golden Legend – Saint Bernard


Article

Here followeth the Life of Saint Bernard, the mellifluous doctor, and first of the interpretation of his name.

Bernard is said of ber, that is, a pit or well, and nardus, which, as the gloss saith upon Cantica, is an humble herb and of hot nature and well smelling. He was hot inburning love, humble in conversation, a well in flowing doctrine, a pit in deepness of science, and well smelling in sweetness of fame. His life hath written Abbot William of Saint Theodoric, and the fellow of Saint Bernard, and Hernaldus the abbot of Bonevalle. Saint Bernard was born in Burgundy in the castle of Fontaine of noble lineage and much religious. Whose father hight Celestin, and was a noble knight in the world and much religious to God. And his mother was named Aleth. She had seven children, six males and one female. The men children she nourished all for to be monks, and the daughter for to be a nun. And anon, as she had a child she offered it to God with her own hands. She would refuse strange breasts, for like as she fed them with her motherly milk, so fed she them with nature of goodness.And as long as they grew and were under her hand she nourished them more for desert than for the court. For she fed them with more common and grosser meats, like as she would have sent them right forth into desert. And as she bare the third son, which was Bernard, in her belly, she saw in her sleep a dream which was a demonstrance of things to come. Her seemed that she had in her belly a whelp, all white and red upon the back, barking in her belly. And when she had told her dream to a holy man, he answered to her, prophesying: Thou art mother of a right noble whelp, which shall be a warden of the house of God, and shall give great barkings against the enemies. For he shall be a noble preacher, and shall guerish much people by the grace of his tongue.

And as Bernard was yet a little child he was sick of the headache, and there came a woman to him for to charm him, and thereby to assuage the grievous ache of his head, but he put her from him, crying by right great indignation, and the mercy of God failed not to his infancy in good love, for he arose and felt that he was delivered hereof. In the blessed night of the nativity of our Lord, when the child Bernard abode in the church the office of matins, and coveted to know what hour Jesu Christ was born, the child Jesus appeared to him as he had been born again out of his mother’s belly, wherefore, as long as he lived, he supposed that hour to be the hour of the nativity of our Lord. And ever after as long as he lived was given to him in that hour more perfect wit, and speech more abundant in such things as appertain to the sacrament. And after that he made a noble work, among all his other works, of the laud and praising of God and his blessed mother. In the which work he expounded the lesson evangelic, how the angel Gabriel was sent to the Virgin Mary. And when the ancient enemy saw the purpose of the child full of health he bent against him many gins of temptation. And on a time when he had holden his eyes and fixed them upon a woman, he had anon shame in himself and was a cruel venger of himself. For he leapt anon into a pond full of water, and frozen, and was therein so long that almost he was frozen. And by the grace of God he was cooled from the heat of carnal concupiscence.

About that time, by the instigation of the devil, a maid laid her in his bed by him all naked there where he slept, and when he felt her, he let her lie in that side of the bed she had taken, and turned him to that other side and slept. And she tarried a space of time, and felt him and kittled him, and would have drawn him to her intent. And at the last, when she felt him immoveable, though she were unshamefaced, yet she was ashamed, and all confused, arose and went her way. Another time as he was harboured in the house of a lady, she considered the beauty of this young man and was greatly achauffed and strongly desired his company. And then she ordained a bed out from the others. And in the night she arose without shame and came secretly to him. And when he felt her he cried: Thieves! thieves! And she fled, and lighted a candle herself and sought the thief, and none was found, and then each man went to his bed again. But this unhappy woman rested not, but arose again and went to the bed of Bernard, as she did tofore, and he cried: Thieves! thieves ! And the thief was sought but was not found, ne published of him that knew her well. And yet was she chased the third time, and then with great pain she ceased what for dread and despair. And on the morn as they went by the way, his fellows reproved him of that he had so dreamed of thieves, and enquired of him what it was. And he answered: Verily, I have suffered this night the assailings of a thief, for mine hostess enforced to take away from me treasure not recoverable. And then he bethought himself that it was not sure thing to dwell with the serpent, and thought for to flee it. And then he ordained him to enter into the order of Cistercians.

And when his brethren knew it they would have taken him from that purpose, and our Lord gave to him so great grace that they might not turn him from his conversion, but he brought all his brethren and many others to religion.

Nevertheless, Gerard, his brother, a noble knight, supposed always that they were vain words and refused always his monestements and treachings. And then bernard, burning in the faith and in the spirit of brotherly love of charity, said: My brother, I know well that one sharp travail shall give understanding to thine ears. And after that he put his finger on his side, and said to him: One day shall come, and that soon, that a spear shall pierce thy side, and shall make way to thine heart, for to take the counsel that thou now refusest. And a short time after Gerard was taken of his enemies, and was hurt on the side in the place where his brother had set his finger, and was put in prison fast bounden. And then came to him Bernard, and they would not suffer him to speak to him. And he cried on high: Gerard, brother, know thou that we shall go shortly and enter into the monastery. And that same night the bonds of Gerard brake and fell off, and the door opened by himself, and he fled out, and said to his brother that he had changed his purpose and would be a monk. And this was in the year of the incarnation of our Lord eleven hundred and twelve, in the fifteenth year of the order of Citeaux. The servant of God, Bernard, at the age of twenty-two years entered into the order of Citeaux with more than thirty fellows. And as Bernard issued with his brethren out of his father’s house, Guy, that was the eldest, saw Nivard, his younger brother, which was a little child and played with the children, and said to him: Nivard, brother, all the possession of our heritage shall appertain to thee. And the child answered not as a child, and said: Ye shall then have heaven, and leave to me only the earth, this part is not evenly ne righteously divided. And after, the child abode a little while with his father, but afterward he followed his brethren.

When the servant of God, Bernard, was entered in to the order, he was so esprised and in all things occupied in God that he used no bodily wits. He had been a year in the cell of novices, and yet he wist not whether there were any windows in the house or no, and oft-times he had entered and gone out of the church whereas in the head were three windows, and he supposed there had been but one. And the abbot of Citeaux sent of his brethren for to edify the house of Clerevaux, and made Bernard there abbot, which was there long in great poverty, which oft made his pottage with leaves of holm. And the servant of God waked over man’s power, and said that he lost no time but when he slept, and said that the comparison of sleep and of death were like semblable, so they that sleep be like as death were with men, and like as dead men be seen sleeping to God. He was unnethe drawn to any meat for delight of appetite, but only for dread of failing, and he went to take his meat like as he should have gone to a torment. And he was always accustomed, when he had eaten, to weet if he had eaten too much or more than he was accustomed, and if he had so done he would punish himself so that he refrained his mouth, that he lost a great part of the savour and tasting of his meat. For sometimes he drank oil when it was given him by error instead of drink. He said that the water was good alone and refreshed him well, and he perceived not that he drank oil, but when his lips were anointed some told him thereof. And some time and other while he ate the fat of raw flesh instead of butter. He said that all that he had learned of holy scripture he had learned it in woods, in fields, most by meditation and praying, and confessed that he had none other masters but oaks and holm-trees, this confessed he among his friends. At the last he confessed that sometime, when he was in meditation or praying, him thought that all holy scriptures appeared to him expounded. On a time, as he rehearseth in Canticis, that he would put among the words such as the Holy Ghost counselled him, and whiles he made that treatise he would think, of good courage, what he should do when that were made. And then a voice came to him, saying: Till thou hast accomplished this work thou shalt do none other. He had never pleasure in clothing; he said that filths were in demonstrance of negligence, and outrageous clothing was folly, a man but glorifying himself in respect of outward vain glory. He had in his heart always this proverb, and oft said it: Who doth that no other man cloth, all men wonder on him. He ware many years the hair, and as long as he might hide it he ware it. And when he saw that it was known, he left it anon and took him to common vesture. He laughed never but if he made greater force to laugh than to refrain him. He was wont to say that the manner of patience was in three manners, of injuries of words, of damage of things, and of misdoing of the body. On a time he wrote a letter to a bishop, friendly, and admonished him amiably, and he was much wroth, and wrote to him a letter saying thus at the beginning: Greeting to thee that hast the spirit of blasphemy. To whom he answered: I suppose not to have the spirit of blasphemy, ne have said evil to any man, but only to the prince the devil. An abbot sent to him six hundred marks of silver for to make a convent, but all the money was robbed by thieves by the way. And when Saint Bernard heard thereof he said none other thing but: Blessed be God that hath spared me from this charge. A canon regular came to him and prayed him much that he Bernard would receive him to be a monk, and he would not accord it to him, but counselled him to return to his church. He said to him: Why hast thou so much in thy books praised perfection if thou wilt not show it, and deliver it to him that coveteth it? If I had thy books I would all torend them. And Bernard said to him: Thou hast not read in any of them but that thou mightest be perfect in thy cloister; I praise in all my books the correction of manners and not the mutation of places. And the canon being all araged leapt to him and smote him on the cheek, that it was red and swollen. And they that were by arose against this cursed man for to have smitten this cursed man, but Bernard came between, crying and conjuring by the name of Jesu Christ that they should not touch him, ne do him none harm. He had a custom to say to the novices that would enter into religion: Leave there without your body, ye that will enter into religion, leave the body without that ye have taken from the world, and join you to them that be here within, let the spirit enter only, for the flesh profiteth no thing.

Saint Bernard’s father went into the monastery and dwelled there a certain time, and after died in good age. The sister was married in to the world, and on a time she arrayed and apparelled her in riches and delights of the world, and went into the monastery for to visit her brethren in a proud estate and great apparel. And he dreaded her as she had been the devil, or his net for to take souls, ne would not go out for to see her. And when she saw that none of her brethren came against her, one of her brethren, that was porter, said to her that she was a foul ordure stinking, wraped in gay array. And then she melted all in tears, and said: If I be a sinner, God died for sinners, and because I am a sinful woman I come to ask counsel of them that be good. If my brother despise my flesh, he that is servant of God ought not to despise my soul; let my brother come, and what he shall command me I shall do. And she held that promise. And he came with his brethren, and because she might not depart from her husband, he taught her to despise the glory of the world, and showed to her how she should ensiew the steps of her mother. And then when she came home again she was so sore changed, that in the middle of the world she led the life of a hermit, and all estranged from the world. In the end she vanquished her husband by prayers, and was assoilled by the bishop of her vow and entered into a monastery.

On a time Saint Bernard was sore sick, so that him seemed he should give up his spirit, and was at his end as him seemed in a trance, and him thought that he was tofore God in judgment and there was the devil on that other side, which put on him many accusations and reproaches, and when he had all said, Bernard said without fear, dread, or wrath: I confess me that I am not worthy to have the kingdom of heaven by mine own merits, but our Lord which holdeth me by double right as his heritage and by the merits of his passion. By that one he is content, and that other he giveth to me, by which gift I ought not to be confounded, but it appertaineth to me by right. And thus he was confused and the vision failed, and the man of God came to himself and destrained his body by so great travail of fastings and wakings, that he languished in continual malady, that he might not follow the convent but with pain.

On a time he was so grievously sick that all the brethren prayed for him, so that he felt him a little alleged and eased of his pain. Then he did do assemble all his brethren, and said: Wherefore hold ye so wretched a man? Ye be stronger and have vanquished, I pray you, spare me and let me go. This holy man was elect of many cities for to be a bishop, specially of the city of Milan, and refused it not follily, ne granted thereto, but said to them that required that he was not his own, but deputed to other. And by the counsel of this holy man, the brethren so provided by the authority of the pope, that none might take him from them which was their joy to have him.

On a time when he visited the order of Charterhouse, and when the brethren were well edified by him, one thing there was that moved a little the prior of the place, and that was, the saddle that Saint Bernard rode on was over precious and showed little poverty of the brethren, and the prior told it to one of the brethren. And the brother said it to Saint Bernard, and he marvelled and asked what saddle it was, and sent for it. For he wist not what saddle it was, how well he had ridden upon it from Clerevaux to the Charterhouse. He went all a long day by the lake of Lausanne and saw not the lake ne took heed of it, and at even as his fellows spake of that lake, he demanded where was that lake. And when they heard that, they marvelled strongly, for certainly the humbleness of his heart vanquished in him the height of name. For the world could never enhance him so high, but be alone humbled himself the more; he was reputed sovereign of all, and he accounted himself Ieast and most low. And at the last he confessed that when he was among his sovereign honours and favours ot the people, him seemed that there was another man changed in him, or as he had been in a dream. And there where he was among the most simple brethren he used most amiable humility, there he joyed, there found he himself, and that he was returned in to his own person. He was always found tofore the hours, or reading, or writing, or in meditation, or in edifying his brethren by word. On a time as he preached to the people, and that they all understood devoutly his words, such a temptation arose in his heart: Verily, now preachest thou well, now art thou well heard of the people, and art reputed wise of them all. And the holy man feeling him to be put in this temptation, rested and tarried a while, and thought whether he might say more or make an end. And anon he was comforted by divine aid, and answered softly to him that tempted him: I neither began by thee, ne shall I end by thee; and so performed surely all his sermon.

A monk that had been a ribald in the world and a player, tempted by a wicked spirit, would return again to the world. And as Saint Bernard retained him, he demanded him whereof he should live. And he answered to him that he could well play at the dice, and should well live thereby. And Saint Bernard said to him: If I deliver to thee any good, wilt thou come again every year that I may part half gain with thee ? And he had great joy thereof, and promised him so to do. And then Saint Bernard said that there should be delivered to him twenty shillings, and he went withal. And this holy man did this for to draw him again to the religion, as he did after. And he went forth, and lost all, and came again all confused tofore the gate. And when Saint Bernard knew him there, he went to him joyously and opened his lap for to part the gain. And he said: Father, I have won nothing, but have lost your chattel; receive me, if it please you, to be your chattel. And Saint Bernard answered to him sweetly: If it be so, it is better that I receive thee, than lose both thee and that other.

On a time Saint Bernard rode upon an horse by the way, and met a villein by the way, which said to him that he had not his heart firm and stable in praying. And the villein or uplandish man had great despite thereof, and said that he had his heart firm and stable in all his prayers. And Saint Bernard, which would vanquish him and shew his folly, said to him: Depart a little from me, and begin thy paternoster in the best entent thou canst. And if thou canst finish it without thinking on any other thing, without doubt I shall give to thee the horse that I am on. And thou shalt promise to me by thy faith that if thou think on any other thing thou shalt not hide it from me. And the man was glad and reputed the horse his, and granted it him, and went apart and began his paternoster. And he had not said the half when he remembered if he should have the saddle withal. And therewith he returned to Saint Bernard and said that he had thought in praying, and after that he had no more will to advance him.

There was monk of his named brother Robert, nigh to himself as to the world, had been deceived in his childhood by the enticement of some persons, and was sent to the abbey of Cluny, and the honourable man left him awhile there. And he would call him again by letters; and as he indited the letter by clear day, and another monk wrote it, a rain came suddenly upon them. And he that wrote would have hid the parchment from the rain, and Saint Bernard said: This work is the work of God, write on hardily and doubt thee nothing. And then he wrote the letter in the midst of the rain without being wet, and yet it rained all about them; for the virtue of charity took away the moisture of the rain from them.

A great multitude of flies had taken a church that he had do make, so that they did much harm to all them that came thither. And he said: I curse and excommunicate them, and on the morn they were found all dead. He was on a time sent from the pope to Milan for to reconcile the church, and when he had so done and was returned, a man of Milan brought to him his wife which was demoniac. And anon the devil began to missay him through the mouth of the wretched woman, and said: Thou eater of porret, ween thou to take me out of mine house? Nay, thou shalt not! And the holy man, Saint Bernard, sent him to Saint Syrus in his church, and the said Saint Syrus gave the honour to his host and healed her not, and thus was she brought again to Saint Bernard. And then the devil began to cry, and said: Neither Syrus ne Bernard shall put me out. And Saint Bernard said: Syrus ne Bernard shall not put thee out, but our Lord shall put thee out. And as soon as he made his prayer the wicked spirit said: Ha ! ha! how gladly would I issue from hence, for I am here tormented grievously. But I may not, for the great Lord wills it not. And the holy man said: Who is that Lord? and he said, Jesus of Nazareth. And Saint Bernard said: Sawest thou him ever? And he answered: Yea. Saint Bernard said: Where sawest thou him? And he said: In his glory. And Saint Bernard asked him: And wert thou in glory? And he said: Yea. How wentest thou from thence? And he said: With Lucifer many of us fell. All these he said by the mouth of the woman, that every man heard. Then said to him the holy man: Wouldst not thou go again into that glory? And he said, mowing marvellously: It is too late. Then the holy man prayed, and the wicked spirit issued out of that woman, but when the man of God was departed thence, the wicked spirit entered again. And her husband came after the holy man and told him what was happed. And he made to bind a writing about her neck containing these words: I command thee in the name of our Lord Jesu Christ that thou be not so hardy to touch more this woman, and he durst never after touch her.

There was a piteous woman in Guienne, which was vexed with a devil that dwelled in her and vexed her marvellously six years during, in using her to his lechery. And the holy man, Saint Bernard, came in to the parts. And the devil menaced her, if she went to him that it should not profit her. And if she went, he that was her love should be to her a cruel persecutor. But she went surely to the holy man, and told to him, weeping strongly, what she suffered. And he said: Take this staff which is mine, and lay it in thy bed, and if he may do anything let him do it, and she did so and laid it in her bed. And he came anon, but he durst not go to his work accustomed, ne presumed to approach her bed, but he threatened her right eagerly that, when he was gone, he would avenge him right cruelly on her. And when she had said this to Bernard, he assembled the people that every each should hold a candle burning in his hand, and came to this devil, and with all them that were there he cursed him and excommunicated him, and defended that never after he should so do to her ne to none other. And thus was she all delivered of that illusion. And when on a time as this holy man went as a legate in to that province for to reconcile the duke of Guienne to the church, and he refused to be reconciled in all manners, the holy man went to the altar for to sing mass, and the duke abode without the church as excommunicate. And when he had said Pax domini, he laid the body of our Lord upon the paten, and bare it without the church, and went out with a face flaming and burning, and assailed the duke by fearful words, saying: We have prayed thee and thou hast despised us, lo! here is the son of the Virgin which is come to thee, which is Lord of the church whom thou persecutest. This is thy judge, in the name of whom all knees bow, in the hands of whom thy soul shall come, despise him not as thou hast his servants, resist him if thou mayst. Then anon the duke waxed all stiff and was impotent in all his members, and then he fell down at his feet. And the holy man put his foot at him, and commanded him to arise and to hear the sentence of God. He then trembling arose, and accomplished anon that the holy man commanded.

On a time as this holy Saint Bernard entered into Almaine for to appease a great discord, there was an archbishop that sent an honorable clerk against him. And when the clerk said to him that he had been sent from his master against him, the holy man answered to him and said: Another lord hath sent thee. And he marvelled and said that he was sent of none other, but of his lord the archbishop. And Saint Bernard said: Son, thou art deceived, our Lord Jesu Christ, which hath sent thee, is a greater master. And when the clerk understood him he said: Sire, weenest thou that I will be a monk? Nay, I thought it never, ne it came never in my heart, yet after in the same voyage he forsook the world and received the habit of this holy man, Saint Bernard.

He took also on a time into the order a noble knight, and when he had followed Saint Bernard a little time he began to be grievously tempted, and when a brother saw him so heavy, he inquired the cause of his heaviness. And he answered him: I wot well that I shall never be glad. And the brother told it to Saint Bernard, and he prayed to God much ententively for him, and anon that brother that was so pensive and so heavy, seemed more joyous than the other, and more glad than he had been tofore heavy. And the brother blamed him because he had said that he should never be joyous. And he answered and said: I wot well I said I should never be glad, but I say now that I never shall be sorrowful.

When Saint Malachi, bishop of Ireland, of whom he wrote the life, full of virtues, passed out of this world out of his monastery blessedly to our Lord Jesu Christ, and Saint Bernard offered to God for him sacrifice of health, he saw the glory of him by revelation of our Lord, and by the inspiration of God he changed the form of prayer after the communion, saying thus with joyous voice: God, that hast accompanied Saint Malachi by his merits with thy saints, we pray thee to give to us that we that make the feast of his precious death, may follow the examples of his life. And when the chanter heard him,he said to him, and showed that he erred. And he said: I err not, but I know well what I say, and then went to the body and kissed his feet. And in a time that the Lent approached he was visited of divers knights. And he prayed them that at the least in these holy days they should abstain them from their vanities, their jollities, and doing outrages, and they in no wise would agree thereto. And then he bade make ready wine, and said to them: Drink ye the health of your souls, and when they had drunk the wine they were suddenly changed and went to their houses, and they that had denied to do a little time, they gave to God after, all the time of their life, and led a right holy life. At the last the holy Saint Bernard, approaching to the death, said blessedly to his brethren: I require and command you to keep three things, the which I remember to have kept to my power as long as I have been in this present life. I have not willed to slander any person, and if any have fallen I have hid it as much as I might. I have ever trusted less mine own wit than any others. If I were hurt, I never required vengeance of the hurter. I leave to you charity, humility, and patience. And after that he had done many miracles, and had made one hundred and seventy-one monasteries, and had ordained many books and treatises, he accomplished the days of his life the sixty-third year of his age, in the year of our Lord eleven hundred and fifty six. He slept in our Lord among the hands of his sons, and his glory showed his departing hence to much people.

He appeared to an abbot in a monastery and admonished him that he should follow him, and he so did. And then Saint Bernard said: We be come to the mount of Lebanon, thou shalt abide here, and I shall ascend up on high. And he asked him wherefore he would go up, and he said: For to learn, I will go up. And he being greatly admarvelled, said: What wilt thou learn, father, of whom we believe that there is none to thee like, ne holden so wise in science as thou art? And he said: Here is no science, ne here is no knowledge of truth, but there above is plenty of science, and on high is the very knowledge of truth. And with that word he vanished away. And then that abbot marked that day, and found that Saint Bernard was then passed to our Lord, which showed for him many miracles and innumerable. To whom be given laud and praising everlasting. Amen.



Gregorio Fernández, Le Christ en croix embrassant Saint Bernard Clairvaux, 1613, 
blo mayor. Iglesia del Monasterio de las Huelgas Reales, Valladolid


St. Bernard, Abbot


From his original life, in five books; the first of which was written by William, abbot of St. Thierry or Theodoric, near Rheims, his intimate friend; the second by Arnold, abbot of Bonnevaux; and the three last by Geoffrey, some time secretary to the saint, afterwards abbot, first of Igny, then of Clairvaux; all eye-witnesses of the saint’s actions. To these five books Mabillon adds three others, containing histories of his miracles; one compiled by Philip, a monk of Clairvaux, addressed to Sampson, archbishop of Rheims; another written by the monks of this monastery to the clergy of Cologne, drawn from the book entitled, The Exordium or beginning of Citeaux; the third, compiled by Geoffrey, abbot of Igny, addressed to the Bishop of Constance. Mabillon hath also given us the life of St. Bernard, composed by Alanus, abbot of Larivoir, made bishop of Auxerre in 1153; fragments of another life, which is believed to belong to Geoffrey; and a third life, written about the year 1180, by John the Hermit, who had lived with St. Bernard’s disciples. See also his lives, compiled by Mabillon and Le Nain.

A.D. 1153.

ST. BERNARD, the prodigy and great ornament of the eleventh age, was the third son of Tescelin and Aliz or Alice, both of the prime nobility of Burgundy, and related to the dukes, particularly Aliz, who was daughter of Bernard, lord of Mombard. Our saint was born in 1091, at Fontaines, a castle near Dijon, and a lordship belonging to his father. His parents were persons of great piety, and his mother not content to offer him to God as soon as he was born, as she did all her seven children, afterwards consecrated him to his service in the church, as Anne did Samuel, and from that day considered him as not belonging to her, but to God; and she took a special care of his education, in hopes that he would one day be worthy to serve the altar. Indeed she brought up all her children very discreetly and piously, and never trusted them to nurses. Their names were Guy, Gerard, Bernard, Humbeline, Andrew, Bartholomew, and Nivard. The other sons were applied young to learn military exercise and feats of arms; but Bernard was sent to Chatillon on the Seine, to pursue a complete course of studies in a college of secular priests who were canons of that church. He even then loved to be alone; was always recollected, obedient, obliging to all, and modest beyond what can be expressed. He made it his continual earnest prayer to God, that he would never suffer him to sully his innocence by sin. He gave to the poor all the money he got. The quickness of his parts astonished his masters, and his progress in learning was far greater than could be expected from one of his age; but he was still much more solicitous to listen to what God, by his holy inspirations, spoke to his heart. One Christmas-night in his sleep he seemed to see the divine infant Jesus so amiable, that from that day he ever had a most tender and sensible devotion towards that great mystery of love and mercy, and in speaking of it he always seemed to surpass himself in the sweetness and unction of his words. His love of chastity so restrained his senses, that he never showed any inclination to the least levity or curiosity, by which the passions are usually inflamed, and his body being kept always in subjection to the spirit, was readily disposed to obey it in all habits of virtue. The saint entered upon the studies of theology, and of the holy scriptures, at Chatillon. He was nineteen years old when his mother died. Her excessive charities, and attendance in the hospitals, her fasts, her devotions, and all her other virtues, had gained her the reputation of a living saint. Having a great devotion to St. Ambrose, she had a custom of inviting all the clergy from Dijon to Fontaines, to celebrate his festival. On the vigil of that day, in 1110, she was seized with a fever, and on the festival itself received the extreme-unction and viaticum, answered to the recommendation of her soul recited by all this religious company, and having made the sign of the cross, happily expired.

Bernard was then returned to Fointaines, and now became his own master; for his father was employed at a distance about his business and in the army. He made his appearance in the world with all the advantages and talents which can make it amiable to a young nobleman, or which could make him loved by it. His quality, vivacity of wit, and cultivated genius, his prudence and natural modesty, his affability and sweetness of temper, and the agreeableness of his conversation, made him beloved by all; but these very advantages had their snares. His first clanger was from his false friends and companions; but the light of grace made him discover their first attempts and resolutely repulse them, and shun such treacherous worldly company for the time to come. Once he happened to fix his eyes on the face of a woman; but immediately reflecting that this was a temptation, he ran to a pond, and leaped up to the neck into the water, which was then as cold as ice, to punish himself, and to vanquish the enemy. On another occasion, an impudent woman assaulted him; but he drove her out of his chamber with the utmost indignation. Bernard, by these temptations, was affrighted at the snares and dangers of the world, and began to think of forsaking it, and retiring to Citeaux, where God was served with great fervour. He fluctuated some time in his mind, and one day going to see his brothers, who were then with the Duke of Burgundy at the siege of the castle Grancei, in great anxiety he stept into a church in the road, and prayed with many tears that God would direct him to discover and follow his holy will. He arose steadily fixed in the resolution of embracing the severe Cistercian institute. His brothers and friends endeavoured to dissuade him from it; but he so pleaded his cause as to draw them all over to join him in his courageous undertaking. Gauldri, lord of Touillon, near Autun, the saint’s uncle, a nobleman who had gained great reputation by his valour in the wars, readily came into the same resolution. Bartholomew and Andrew, two younger brothers of Bernard, also declared that they made the same choice. Guy, the eldest brother, held out longest, having greater obstacles which seemed to fix him in the world; for he was married, and had two daughters; but his lady consenting, and professing herself a nun at Laire near Dijon, he also came over. Gerard, the second brother, was not to be so easily overcome, being a captain of reputation, and full of the world; but being soon after wounded in his side by a lance, and taken prisoner, he by serious reflection entered into himself, and ran to join his brothers. Hugh of Macon, a very noble, rich, and virtuous lord, (who afterwards founded the monastery of Pontigni, and died bishop of Auxerre,) an intimate friend of St. Bernard, upon the news of his design, wept bitterly at the thoughts of his separation, but by two interviews was induced to become his companion. They all assembled at a house at Chatillon, preparing themselves by suitable exercises to consecrate themselves to God in the most perfect dispositions of soul. On the day appointed for the execution of their design Bernard and his brothers went to Fointaines to take their last farewell of their father, and to beg his blessing. They had left Nivard their youngest brother to be a comfort to him in his old age. Going out, they saw him at play with other children of his age, and Guy, the eldest said to him: “Adieu, my little brother Nivard; you will have all our estates and lands to yourself.” The boy answered: “What! you then take heaven for your portion, and leave me only the earth. The division is too unequal.” They went away; but soon after Nivard followed them; so that, of the whole family, there only remained in the world the old father, and with him his daughter St. Humbeline.

Bernard was seconded in his resolutions by thirty noblemen and gentlemen, including his brothers, and after they had staid six months at Chatillon to settle their affairs, he accompanied them to Citeaux. That monastery had been founded fifteen years, and was at that time governed by St. Stephen. This holy company arrived there in 1113, and, prostrating themselves before the gate, begged to be admitted to join the monks in their penitential lives. St. Stephen seeing their fervour, received them with open arms, and gave them the habit. St. Bernard was then twenty-three years old. He entered this house in the desire to die to the remembrance of men, to live hidden, and to be forgotten by creatures, that he might be occupied only on God. To renew his fervour against sloth he repeated often to himself this saying of the great Arsenius; Bernard, Bernard, “why camest thou hither?” He practised himself what he afterwards used to say to postulants who presented themselves to be admitted into his monastery at Clairvaux: “If you desire to live in this house, you must leave your body; only spirits must enter here;” that is, persons who live according to the Spirit. He studied to mortify his senses, and to die to himself in all things. This practice by habit became a custom, and by custom, was almost changed into nature; so that his soul being always occupied on God, he seemed not to perceive what passed about him, so little notice did he take of things, as appeared in several occurrences. After a year’s novitiate he did not know whether the top of his cell was covered with a ceiling; nor whether the church had more than one window, though it had three. Two faults, however, into which he fell, served to make him more watchful and fervent in his actions. The exact author of the Exordium of Citeaux relates, that the saint had been accustomed to say every day privately seven psalms for the repose of the soul of his mother; but he one day omitted them. St. Stephen knew this by inspiration, and said to him the next morning: “Brother Bernard, whom did you commission to say the seven psalms for you yesterday?” The novice surprised that a thing could be known which he had never disclosed to any one, full of confusion, fell prostrate at the feet of St. Stephen, confessed his fault, and asked pardon, and was ever after most punctual in all his private practices of devotion, which are not omitted without an imperfection; nor without a sin, if it be done through sloth or culpable neglect. His other offence was, that one day being ordered by his abbot to speak to certain secular friends, he took some satisfaction in hearing their questions and answers: in punishment of which he found his heart deprived of spiritual consolation. In expiation he prayed often prostrate long together at the foot of the altar during five-and-twenty days in sighs and groans, till he was again visited by the divine Spirit. He afterwards in necessary conversation kept his mind so carefully recollected on God that his heart did not go astray.

After the year of his novitiate he made his profession in the hands of St. Stephen with his companions in 1114; but with that perfect sacrifice of himself and disengagement of his heart from all creatures, which is better imagined than expressed, and which drew on him the most abundant graces. He set out with extraordinary ardour in all his monastic exercises. The saint not being able to reap the corn so as to keep up with the rest, his superior ordered him other work; but he begged of God that he might be enabled to cut the corn, and soon equalled the best hands. At his work his soul was continually occupied on God in great fervour, and he used afterwards to say, that he never had any other master in his studies of the holy scriptures but the oaks and beeches of the forest; for that spiritual learning in which he became so great an oracle, was a gift of the Holy Ghost, obtained by his extraordinary purity of heart, and assiduous meditation and prayer. The peace, humility, and fervour of his soul seemed painted in his countenance, in which the charms of a certain heavenly grace often captivated and surprised those who beheld him, though his face was emaciated, and exceedingly pale and wan, and his whole body bore visible marks of his austere penitential life. He almost always laboured under some corporal infirmity, and his stomach, through a habit of excessive fasting, was scarcely ever able to bear any solid food. He suffered all his distempers without ever speaking of them, or using any indulgence, unless compelled by those who took notice of them. He often made a scruple of taking on those occasions an herb pottage, in which a little oil and honey were mixed. When another expressed his surprise at his making such a difficulty, he answered: “Did you know how great the obligation of a monk is, you would not eat one morsel of bread without having first watered it with your tears.” He used to say: “Our fathers built their monasteries in damp unwholesome places, that the monks might have the uncertainty of life more sensibly before their eyes.” For monasteries were anciently built chiefly in uncultivated deserts, rocks, or swampy lands; though the monks in many places, with incredible industry, drained their morasses and converted them into gardens and meadows. St. Bernard was a great lover of poverty in his habit, cell, and all other things; but called dirtiness a mark of sloth or of affectation. He seemed, by a habit of mortification and recollection, to have lost all attention to, or relish of food, and often took one liquor for another, when offered him by mistake, so that he once drank oil instead of water. His chief sustenance was coarse bread softened in warm water. All the time which he spent in contemplation seemed short to him, and he found every place convenient for that exercise. He did not interrupt it in the midst of company, conversing in his heart always with God: but he omitted no opportunity of speaking for the edification of his neighbour, and adapted himself with wonderful charity to the circumstances of all ranks, learned or unlearned, nobles or plebeians. Though his writings are filled with holy unction, they cannot convey the grace and fire of his words; and he employed the holy scripture with so much readiness and so happily on all occasions, that therein he seemed to follow the light of the Holy Ghost.

The number of monks being grown too great at Citeaux, St. Stephen founded in 1113, the monastery of La Ferté, upon the river Grosne, in Burgundy, two leagues from Challons on the Saone; and in 1114, that of Pontigni, in Champagne, upon the frontiers of Burgundy, four leagues from Auxerre. Hugh, earl of Troyes, offered a spot of ground in his estates, whereon to found a third monastery; and the holy superior, seeing the great progress which Bernard had made in a spiritual life, and his extraordinary abilities for any undertaking in which the divine honour was concerned, gave him a crosier, appointed him abbot, and ordered him to go with twelve monks, among whom were his brothers, to found a new house in the diocess of Langres, in Champagne. They walked in procession singing psalms, with their new abbot at their head, and settled in a desert called the Valley of Wormwood, encompassed by a wild forest, which then afforded a retreat for abundance of robbers. These thirteen monks grubbed up a sufficient spot, and, with the assistance of the Bishop of Challons and the people of the country, built themselves little cells. This young colony had often much to suffer, and, being several times in extreme necessity, was as often relieved in some sudden unexpected manner; which wonderful effects of kind providence St. Bernard made use of to excite their confidence in God. These fervent monks, animated by the example of their abbot, seemed to find nothing hard or difficult in their extreme poverty and austerity. Their bread was usually made of coarse barley, and sometimes chiefly of vetches or cockle; and boiled beech-tree leaves were sometimes served up instead of herbs. Bernard at first was so severe upon the smallest distractions and least transgressions of his brethren, whether in confession or in chapter, that although his monks behaved with the utmost humility and obedience, they began to fall into dejection; which made the abbot sensible of his fault. He condemned himself for it to a long silence. At length, being admonished by a vision, he resumed his office of preaching with extraordinary unction and fruit, as William of St. Thierry relates. The reputation of this house, and of the sanctity of the abbot, in a short time became so great, that the number of monks in it amounted to one hundred and thirty, and the country gave this valley the name of Clara-vallis or Clarval. It is now commonly called Clairvaux or Clervaux, and is situated eleven leagues from Langres, in Champagne. This monastery was founded in 1115.

St. Bernard seemed to set no bounds to the austerities which he practised himself. William of St. Thierry says, that he went to his meals as to a torment, and that the sight of food seemed often his whole refection. His watchings were incredible. He seemed by his mortifications to have brought upon himself a dangerous distemper, and his life was almost despaired of about the end of the year 1116. His great admirer, the learned and good bishop of Challons, William of Champeaux, who had formerly been a most eminent professor of theology in the schools of Paris, apprehensive for his life, repaired to the chapter of the Order then held at Citeaux, and obtained authority to govern him as his immediate superior for one year. With this commission he hastened to Clairvaux, and lodged the abbot in a little house without the inclosure, with orders that he should not observe even the rule of the monastery as to eating and drinking; and that he should be entirely discharged from all care of the affairs of his community. Here the saint lived under the direction of a physician, from whose hands he received every thing with silence and an entire indifference. William, the saint’s historian, paid him a visit in this situation, and in the description which he gives of Clairvaux says, that the bread which the monks ate seemed rather made of earth than of flour, though it was made of corn of their own sowing in their desert; and that their other food could have no taste but what extreme hunger or the love of God could give it. Yet the novices found it too dainty.

After a year, St. Bernard returned in good health to his monastery, and to the practice of his former austerities. His aged father Tescelin followed him, received the habit at his hands, and died happily soon after at Clairvaux. In 1115 St. Stephen founded the abbey of Morimond, in Champagne, though part of the refectory now stands in Lorrain. The four first daughters of Citeaux, namely, La Ferté, Pontigni, Clairvaux, and Morimond, became each a mother house to many others, which are called their filiations. Subordinate to the abbey of Morimond are reckoned seven hundred benefices, chiefly in Spain and Portugal, where five military Orders are subject to it, namely, those of Calatrava, Alcantara, Montesa, Avis, and Christi. But that of Clairvaux has the most numerous offspring. St. Bernard founded, in 1118, the abbey of Three Fountains, in the diocess of Challons; that of Fontenay, in the diocess of Autun, and that of Tarouca, in Portugal. He about that time wrought his first miracle, restoring to his senses, by singing mass, a certain lord, his relation, called Josbert de la Ferté, that he might confess his sins; though he died three days after. When the saint had confidently promised this miraculous restoration of Josbert, his uncle Balderic or Baudri, and his brother Gerard, fearing for the event, were for correcting his words; but the saint reproving their diffidence, repeated the same assurance in stronger terms; for the saints feel a secret supernatural instinct when for the divine honour they undertake to work a miracle. The author of St. Bernard’s life adds an account of other sick persons cured instantaneously by the saint’s forming the sign of the cross upon them, attested by eye-witnesses of dignity and unexceptionable veracity. The same author and Manriquez relate certain visions by which the saint was informed in what manner some of his monks were delivered from purgatory, by masses said for the repose of their souls and of the glory of others. They also mention that, in 1121, St. Bernard founded the abbey of Foigni, in the diocess of Laon, in which the venerable bishop of that see made his monastic profession. The church of that monastery was exceedingly haunted by flies, till by the saint’s saying he excommunicated them, they all died; and such swarms of them appeared there no more; which malediction of the flies of Foigni became famous to a proverb. 1 The saint about that time began to compose his works. 2


Being obliged to take a journey to Paris in 1122, at the request of the bishop and archdeacon, he preached to the students who were candidates for holy orders; many of whom were so moved by his discourses, that they accompanied him back to Clairvaux, and persevered there with great fervour. Several German noblemen and gentlemen who called to see that monastery, were so strongly affected with the edifying example of the monks, that after they had gone a little way, discoursing together upon what they had heard from the saint’s mouth, and observed in his holy community, they agreed to return, hung up their swords, and all took the habit. Their conversion appeared the more wonderful, as, till that day, they had lived full of worldly vanity, and passionately addicted to combats of chivalry, and the foolish pride of tilts and tournaments. Humility made the saint sincerely to regard himself as utterly unworthy and incapable of admonishing others; but the ardour of his zeal and charity opened his mouth, and he poured forth his thoughts with such a strength of eloquence, and tender affective charity and humility, that his words could not fail to inflame the most frozen hearts.

He received into his monastery monks who came to him from Cluni, and other Orders that were less austere; but declared that he was most willing to dismiss any of his own who should desire to pass to any other religious institute, out of the motive of seeking their greater perfection. So little did he think of the interest of his own body, which easily becomes a cloak to avarice and ambition, that he yielded to the Order of Premontré and others several good foundations which were first offered him. He was several times chosen bishop of Langres and Challons, and archbishop of Genoa, Milan, and Rheims; but so strenuously opposed the motion with entreaties and tears, that the popes were unwilling to offer too great violence to his humility, and seemed with the whole world to stand in awe of his wonderful sanctity. In 1120, he was for a long time confined to his cell by a dangerous fit of sickness, and in the year 1125, in which, during a grievous famine, he had often exhausted the provisions of his monastery to furnish the poor with bread, he seemed by a dangerous distemper brought to the very gates of death. It happened in this fit of illness that he once appeared to those about him as if he had been in his agony, and, his monks being all assembled round him, he fell into a trance, in which he seemed to himself to behold the devil grievously accusing him before the throne of God. To every part of the charge he made only this answer: “I confess myself most unworthy of the glory of heaven, and that I can never obtain it by my own merits. But my Lord possesseth it upon a double title: that of natural inheritance, by being the only begotten Son of his eternal Father; and that of purchase, he having bought it with his precious blood. This second title he hath transferred on me; and, upon this right, I hope, with an assured confidence, to obtain it through his adorable passion and mercy.” By this plea, the perverse accuser was confounded, and disappeared, and the servant of God returned to himself, and shortly after recovered his former state of health. 3


Most affecting are the sentiments of profound humility, holy fear, and compunction, which this great saint discovers. He tells us that he embraced God by his two feet, that of his mercy, and that of his justice; to exclude, by the latter, sloth and presumption; and, by the former, despair and anxiety. 4 He declares often, in the most moving terms, how much he was penetrated with this saving fear, which he nourished in his soul by having the divine judgments always before his eyes. “I am seized all over,” says he, 5 “with horror, dread, and trembling, whenever I repeat within myself that sentence: Man knoweth not whether he be worthy of love or hatred.” Compunction is the parent of sincere humility; and, in this, our saint appeared always most admirable. Inculcating to others the advantages and obligations of this virtue, he observes, that so great is its excellency, that pride dares not show itself naked, but seeks to appear in a mask, and puts on that of humility, which he defines a virtue by which a man, from a true knowledge of himself, is contemptible in his own eyes. 6 Whence he puts us in mind that it resides partly in the understanding and partly in the will; for it is founded in a perfect knowledge of ourselves, that is, of our nothingness, sinfulness, baseness, weakness, and absolute insufficiency. Nor is this to be a speculative, but a feeling and experimental knowledge, by which we sincerely despise ourselves, as deserving all contempt, disgrace, and chastisement from all creatures; and as unworthy of all mercy, grace, or favour, temporal or spiritual, all which are the most pure gratuitous effects of the divine goodness in favour of undeserving creatures. He discovers the most profound sense of his own baseness and wretchedness, and treats himself as the outcast of all creatures. The praises and esteem of others were to him the most stinging reproaches, and covered him with confusion and grief, because they only showed the opinion of others concerning him, and what he ought to be, not what his actions were; for he saw them to be full only of stench and corruption. “All commendation bestowed on us,” said he, “is flattery, and the joy which is conceived from it, is foolish vanity.” 7 To some he said: “My monstrous life, and my afflicted conscience, cry towards you for compassion; for I am a kind of amphibious creature, that neither lives as an ecclesiastic nor as a recluse. When you have learned my dangers, favour me with your advice and prayers.” 8 In another place he says: “They who praise me, truly reproach and confound me.” These and the like sincere protestations were extorted from him by his profound contempt of himself, and desire that all should know his baseness: for, as he observes, nothing is more base than that refined pride which feigns an affected humility, and would needs wear its mask to make humility itself support its vanity. To raise glory from humility is not the mark, but the ruin of that virtue. “He who is truly humble would be reputed vile and abject,” says he, “not humble.” He never ceased to inculcate this virtue to others as the measure of their advancement in sanctity; and he often repeated to his monks that he among them was the greatest before God who was the most humble in his own eyes.

It is related in the Exordium of Citeaux, that one day in a conference which the saint made to the choir monks, he declared publicly that he doubted not but the humility of a certain lay-brother, then absent, gave to his actions a higher degree of true perfection than any one of the choir monks had attained to, and that this person, though perfectly ignorant of profane literature, was the best skilled in the science of the saints, the true knowledge of himself; for he was always condemning himself as a miserable criminal in the presence of God; and his soul was so entirely employed on his own weaknesses and imperfections, that he saw nothing else in himself, and only virtue in every one else. St. Bernard one day seeing him bathed in tears, asked him the reason? The humble monk told him: “Miserable sinner as I am, I see all heroic virtues practised by my brother who works with me; but have not myself one degree of the least among them. I beseech you to pray that God will grant me in his mercy those virtues which through my sinfulness and sloth I neglect to dispose myself to obtain.” Another lay-brother was obliged to watch the sheep in the fields all night on the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, to which he had a singular devotion. When the bell rung to matins at midnight, condemning himself as unworthy to join his brethren in singing the divine praises, he turned his face towards the church, and lifting up his eyes towards heaven, with a thousand genuflections and prostrations, continued till morning a repetition of the Hail Mary; every time with fresh ardour praising his Redeemer, and imploring his mercy through the intercession of his virgin Mother. His humble devotion, simplicity, and obedience were discovered by God to St. Bernard, who preferred his virtue in this action to that of the most perfect penitents and contemplatives in that house of saints. 9 True humility removes a soul as far from pusillanimity and abjection as from pride and presumption; for it teaches a man to place his whole strength in God alone. Hence sprang that greatness of soul and undaunted courage, with a firm confidence in the divine goodness and mercy, that astonishes us in the actions and writings of this saint. It would be too long to mention the wonderful instances of these and other virtues, especially of his devotion, tender charity, and ardent zeal. He nourished them in his heart by a spirit of prayer and retirement, the characteristical virtue of the monastic state. “Believe me upon my own experience,” said he to those whom he invited into his order, “you will find more in the woods than in books; the forests and rocks will teach you what you cannot learn of the greatest masters.” Meaning that to learn the secrets of heaven, and the science of saints, solitude, sanctified by penance and contemplation, is the best school. He severely condemns those monks who wandered out of their cells; and, out of a love of the world and dissipation, intruded themselves into the ministry of preaching. To one of those he said: “It is the duty of a religious man to weep, not to teach. Cities must be to him as prisons, and solitude his paradise. But this man, on the contrary, finds solitude his prison, and cities his paradise.” 10 This saint, though charity often called him abroad, never left his cell but with regret; and, amidst crowds, his soul was interiorly recollected, and often quite absorbed in God. When he had walked a whole day on the borders of the lake of Lausanne, hearing his companions in the evening mention the lake, he was surprised, affirming that he had never seen it, and did not know that there was a lake there. The saint, who had contracted so close a friendship with Guigo, prior of the great Chartreuse, and the monks of his order, that he seemed to be with them as one heart and one soul, happened once to pay them a visit at the Chartreuse on a horse which he had borrowed of a friend. The prior Guigo was surprised to see him use a fine bridle, and spoke to him of it. The saint answered in surprise that he had never taken notice either of the bridle or saddle. So much was he accustomed by habit, when he was free from the necessity of applying his mind to external business, to immerse himself in the consideration of invisible truths, that he seemed at those times scarcely to have any sense or memory left for earthly things. 11 St. Bernard was particularly devoted to the Blessed Virgin, as his works sufficiently declare. In one of his missions into Germany, being in the great church at Spire, he repeated thrice in a rapture: “O merciful! O pious! O gracious Virgin Mary!” which words the church added to the anthem Salve Regina. The custom was introduced from this devotion of St. Bernard to sing that anthem every day with great solemnity in the cathedral of Spire. The same is done every Saturday in the Cistercian order, and with particular devotion at La Trappe.

Notwithstanding St. Bernard’s love of retirement, obedience and zeal for the divine honour frequently drew him from his beloved cell; and so great was the reputation of his learning and piety, that all potentates desired to have their differences determined by him; bishops regarded his decisions as oracles or indispensable laws, and referred to him the most important affairs of their churches. The popes looked upon his advice as the greatest support of the holy see, and all people had a very profound respect and an extraordinary veneration for his person and sanctity. It may be said of him, that even in his solitude he governed all the churches of the west. But he knew how to join the love of silence and interior recollection of soul with so many occupations and employs, and a profound humility with so great elevation. The first occasion which called for his zeal abroad was a dissension between the archbishop and citizens of Rheims, whom the saint reconciled, confirming his words by the miraculous cure of a boy that was deaf, blind, and dumb, which he performed in that city, as is recorded by the abbot of St. Thierri. He opposed the elections of unworthy persons to the episcopacy, or other ecclesiastical dignities, with the zeal of an Elias, which raised him many enemies, who spared neither slanders nor invectives against him. Their commonplace topic was, that a monk ought to confine himself to his cloister. To this he answered, that a monk was a soldier of Christ, as well as other Christians, and ought to defend the truth and the honour of God’s sanctuary. By his exhortations Henry, archbishop of Sens, and Stephen, bishop of Paris, renounced the court and their secular manner of living. Suger, who was chosen abbot of St. Denis in 1122, was made by King Lewis VI., surnamed the Big or the Fat, prime minister, and by Lewis the Young, for some time regent of the kingdom; and the reins of the government of the French monarchy have seldom been put in the hands of an abler or better statesman. Whilst he held this employment he lived in great state, and St. Bernard reproached him, in his apology, with having fifty attendants in his train. But so efficacious were the discourses with which our saint entertained him on the obligations of his state, that he laid aside his worldly views, resigned all his posts, and shut himself up in his abbey of St. Denis, where he banished the court out of his abbey, re-established austerity and regular discipline, and made an edifying end in 1152, after having built, in three years and three months, the stately church of that abbey as it now stands. 12 The remarkable conversions of innumerable great princes and prelates wrought by St. Bernard are too long to be inserted. He often put ecclesiastics in mind of their strict obligation of giving whatever they enjoyed of church revenues above a necessary maintenance to the poor. Thus he wrote to the dean of Languedoc: 13 “You may imagine that what belongs to the church belongs to you while you officiate there. But you are mistaken; for though it be reasonable that one who serves the altar should live by the altar, yet must it not be to promote either his luxury or his pride. Whatever goes beyond bare nourishment, and simple plain clothing, is sacrilege and rapine.” In this, his own conduct was at all times a true model. In a great famine in 1125, to relieve the poor, he often left his monks destitute of all provisions.

After the death of Honorius II., in 1130, Innocent II. was chosen pope on the same day by the greater number of cardinals. But, at the same time, a faction attempted to invest with that supreme dignity Cardinal Peter, the son of Leo, who took the name of Anacletus. He had formerly been a monk of Cloni, was an ambitious worldly man, and so powerful that he got all the strong-holds about Rome into his hands. Innocent II., who was a holy man, and had been duly elected, was obliged to fly to Pisa. Upon this unhappy contest a council of French bishops was held at Etampes, twenty-five miles from Paris, to which St. Bernard was invited. He strenuously maintained the justice of Innocent’s cause, who was recognised by the council, and soon after came into France. He was splendidly received at Orleans by King Lewis the Big. St. Bernard waited on him, and accompanied him to Chartres, where he met Henry I., king of England. That prince was at first inclined to favour the antipope, but was better informed by St. Bernard, and persuaded to acknowledge Innocent. The saint followed the pope into Germany, and was present at the conference which he had with the Emperor Lothaire at Liege, who recognised the lawful pope, but demanded of him the right of giving the investitures of bishoprics. St. Bernard’s remonstrances struck him dumb, and made him humbly alter his resolution. His holiness held a council at Rheims in 1131, and went from Auxerre to visit Cluni and Clairvaux. At this latter place he was received in procession, as in other places, but without any splendour; the monks were clad in coarse habits, and before them was carried a homely wooden crucifix, and they sung leisurely and modestly hymns and anthems, not one lifting up their eyes or casting them about to see who was near them. The pope, and several of his assistants, could not contain their tears at the sight. The bread which was served at table was made of coarse flour that had never been sifted; the repast was made up of herbs and legumes; a dish of fish was got ready, but this was only for his holiness. The year following St. Bernard attended the pope into Italy, and reconciled to him Genoa and some other cities. At length he arrived with him at Rome, whence he not long after was sent into Germany, to make peace between the Emperor Lothaire II. and the two nephews of Henry V., his predecessor; Conrad III., duke of Suabia, (who succeeded Lothaire in the empire,) and Frederic, the father to Frederic I., or Barbarossa, who ascended the throne after Conrad. The saint in this journey signalized every stage he made by the conversion of many sinners, and, among others, of Aloide, duchess of Lorraine, sister to the Emperor Lothaire, who had for a long time dishonoured her rank and religion by her scandalous deportment. St. Bernard having happily pacified the troubles of Germany, returned into Italy, being obliged by the pope to assist at the council of Pisa in 1134, in which the schismatics were excommunicated. After the conclusion of this synod the pope sent him to Milan, to reconcile that city to the holy see. He wrought there many miracles, and wherever he came was received as a man sent from heaven. He easily induced the Milanese to renounce the schism; and in all places, and in all affairs, succeeded to a miracle. The authors of his life remark that nothing was more admirable in him than his extraordinary humility amidst the greatest honour and respect imaginable, with which he was every where treated. 14


Having happily finished his negotiation at Milan, he returned to his dear solitude at Clairvaux, in the same year, 1134, and after performing his prayer in the church, made a most pathetic affectionate discourse to his monks. He was soon after called abroad into Brittany; and afterwards into Guienne, where William, the powerful and haughty duke of that province, violently persecuted those who adhered to the true pope, and had on that account expelled the bishops of Poitiers and Limoges. Gerard, bishop of Angouleme, an abetter of the schism, encouraged him in these excesses. This William (who is styled duke sometimes of Aquitain, sometimes of Guienne, which was part of Aquitani,) was a prince of high birth, immense wealth, a gigantic stature and strength of body, and extraordinary abilities in worldly affairs; but was in his youth impious, haughty, and impatient of the least control. He seemed not to be able to live out of war, and was so shamelessly abandoned to his passions and lusts, as to have kept his brother’s wife three years by main force, glorying in his iniquities like Sodom. St. Bernard, in 1130, took an occasion to visit the monastery of Chatelliers, which he had then lately founded in Poitou, on purpose to have an opportunity of endeavouring to reclaim this prince from his scandalous disorders. The duke listened to him with great respect during seven days, and appeared to be much affected by his discourses on the last things, and on the fear of God. Nevertheless, he was not yet converted. St. Bernard, who had learned never to despair of the most obstinate sinners, redoubled his tears, prayers, and pious endeavours, till he had the comfort to see him begin to open his heart to the divine grace. When he abetted the schism, the saint, by several conferences, brought him over to the obedience of the rightful pope, but could not prevail upon him to restore the two bishops whom he had unjustly deprived of their sees. At length he had recourse to more powerful arms. He went to say mass, the duke and other schismatics staying without the door, as being excommunicated persons. After the consecration, and the giving of the peace before the communion, the holy abbot put the host upon the paten, and carrying it out, with his eyes sparkling with zeal, charity, and devotion, and his countenance all on fire, spoke to the duke no longer as a suppliant, but with a voice of authority, as follows: “Hitherto we have entreated you and prayed you, and you have always slighted us. Several servants of God have joined their entreaties with ours, and you have never regarded them. Now, therefore, the Son of the Virgin, the Lord and head of that church which you persecute, comes in person to see if you will repent. He is your judge, at whose name every knee bends, both in heaven, earth, and hell. He is the just revenger of your crimes, into whose hands this your obstinate soul will one day fall. Will you despise him? Will you be able to slight him as you have done his servants? Will you?” Here the duke, not being able to hear any more, fell down in a swoon. St. Bernard lifted him up, and bade him salute the bishop of Poitiers, who was present. The astonished prince was not able to speak, but went to the bishop, and led him by the hand to his seat in the church; expressing by that action that he renounced the schism, and restored the bishop to his see. After this, the saint returned to the altar and finished the sacrifice. A particular impulse of the Holy Ghost, the great authority of the saint, and the dignity with which this man of miracles was enabled to perform so extraordinary an action, make it an object of our admiration, though not of imitation.

The abbott, leaving the churches of Guienne thus settled in peace, returned to Clairvaux. But the duke, who had been a worldly and tyrannical prince, relapsed into his former habits, and committed new acts of violence. The saint being informed thereof, wrote him a strong remonstrance, which, through the divine grace, made so deep an impression upon his mind, that his conversion was rendered complete. From that time, he honoured the bishop of Poitiers so much the more as he had formerly persecuted him; and shortly after resolving entirely to devote himself to a penitential life, he sent for this prelate, and in his presence made his last will, wherein he declared, that: “In honour of our Saviour and all the saints, and being penetrated with sorrow for his innumerable sins, and with the fear of the last judgment; likewise considering that all the goods which we seem to possess, vanish in our hands like smoke and leave only bitterness, anguish, and pain, he was resolved to forsake all things in order to follow God, and to obtain more perfectly his holy love. He added, that he left his daughters under the protection of the king, and desired that Eleanor, the elder of them, should marry him, if the barons of Aquitain consented, giving to her Aquitain and Poitou, and to his daughter Petronilla his estates in Burgundy, and to all the monasteries in his dominions one thousand livres of yearly rent to be distributed by his barons.” 15 After this he put on the habit of a pilgrim, entered upon an austere course of life, and undertook a penitential pilgrimage to Compostella, in which some say he died at Leon in Spain. Others tell us he survived this pilgrimage, and passed some time in a hermitage in a wilderness, before God called him to himself. 16 Thus by the prudence and zeal of St. Bernard was the schism extinguished in so many kingdoms; but it was still protected by Roger, king of Sicily, and duke of Calabria. The pope called the saint to Viterbo in 1137, and then sent him to this prince. Bernard, in a public conference at Salerno, convicted Anaclet’s partizans of schism, and brought over many persons of distinction to the union of the church; but Roger, having ambitious views to maintain the usurped possession of the duchy of Benevento, continued inflexible. The saint foretold his defeat in a battle he was preparing to fight with Duke Ranulph, whose forces were much inferior in number; and taking leave of him, hastened back to Clairvaux. The death of the antipope in 1138, opened the way to the peace of the church; for though the schismatics chose one Gregory to the papacy, he surrendered his pretensions to Innocent II. Hereupon Bernard sued to the pope for the pardon of those who had been engaged in the schism.

The saint saw himself obliged to exert his zeal also in maintaining the purity of the Catholic faith, which he employed so often and with such success in the support of its unity and discipline. He heard of no dangerous innovator in the doctrine of the church with whom he did not enter the lists. One of these was the unhappy Peter Abelard, or Abailard, 17 in whose writings certain errors were discovered, which were condemned in the council of Soissons in 1121; and he so far acquiesced in the censure as to cast his book into the flames. In 1139, William, abbot of St. Thierry, discovered several erroneous principles in his later writings, and informed Geoffrey, bishop of Chartres, who was legate of the holy see, and St. Bernard, saying, they were the only persons who could crush the mischief in its embryo. St. Bernard wrote a strong letter of private admonition to Abelard, but was answered by insults and loud complaints. He informed Pope Innocent II. of Abelard’s errors and conduct by a long letter, and also wrote to several French prelates upon that subject. A council of bishops met at Sens in 1140 upon this affair. St. Bernard was unwilling to appear, acquainting the bishops it was their business. Hereupon Abelard triumphed, and his friends said, Bernard was afraid to encounter him face to face. The saint therefore was obliged to be present. But Abelard, who dreaded above all things the eloquence and learning of the holy abbot, only presented himself in the council, to hear the charge drawn up by St. Bernard out of his own book, read against him; for he declined giving any express answer to the articles charged upon him, though he had the liberty given him to do it, had very favourable judges, and was in a place where he had no reason to fear any thing. After having recourse to shifts, he appealed to the pope, and then withdrew from the synod with those of his party. The bishops condemned fourteen propositions extracted out of his works, and wrote to Pope Innocent II. who confirmed their sentence, imposed perpetual silence on Abelard as an heretic, and ordered that he should be imprisoned. Abelard wrote an apology, in which he gave a Catholic exposition to several of his propositions. St. Bernard accused him of denying the Trinity with Arius, of destroying the incarnation with Nestorius, of taking away the necessity of grace with Pelagius, of having bragged that he was ignorant of nothing; of being never willing to say of any thing, Nescio, I do not know it; of pretending to expound inexplicable things, to comprehend incomprehensible mysteries, and to give reasons for what is above reason. It is manifest from his apology, and chiefly from his book, entitled, An introduction to Theology, which had raised this storm, that he advanced several propositions absolutely heretical, others, which, though he expounded them more favourably, were new, harsh, and intolerable. One of the errors contained at this day in his writings is the system of the Optimists, renewed by Leibnitz, pretending that every thing in the world being the best, God could not have made or done any thing any other way than he has done it. After he had published his Apology, he set out on his journey towards Rome; but stopping at Cluni, he was persuaded by the abbot, Peter the Venerable, to recal whatever he had wrote which gave offence, and to wait upon St. Bernard. He did so, and was reconciled to him. With the pope’s leave he resolved to spend the remainder of his life at Cluni, and behaved himself there with great humility and piety for two years. Towards the end of his life he was sent for his health to the monastery of St. Marcellus at Chalons upon the Seine, where he died in 1142, being sixty-three years old. His body was sent to the abbey of Paraclet, to be interred, and Peter the Venerable wrote to Eloïsa an edifying account of his death.


Arnold of Brescia, his disciple, was not so happy as to imitate his repentance and submission. He was a native of Brescia, in Italy, became a scholar of Abelard, took the habit of a monk, and falling into many errors, preached them at the head of armed troops, first in France, and afterwards in Italy. He taught, that neither the pope nor the clergy ought to possess temporal estates; and erred about several other articles of faith. St. Bernard, by his writings and labours, opposed the ravages of this wolf in sheep’s clothing. St. Bernard drew his portrait in lively colours, when, among other things, he says: “Arnold of Brescia is a man who neither eats nor drinks, because, like the devil, he thirsts only after the blood of souls. His conversation has nothing but sweetness, and his doctrine nothing but poison. He has the head of a dove, but the tail of a scorpion.” His description of Abelard is not less strong. He says he was a man always unlike himself, altogether equivocal and unconstant; that he had nothing of a monk but the name and habit, and that his life was the contrast of his character or profession. He adds, to express his vanity, that he knew every thing that is in heaven and earth, but himself. Another person of eminence in that age, by deviating from the scripture and tradition to philosophize on the mysteries of religion, adulterated their simplicity. This was Gilbert de la Porrée, a famous professor of theology at Poitiers, and at length bishop of that city. He was accused of heterodox opinions by his two archdeacons. His doctrine was begun to be examined in an assembly of prelates at Auxerre in 1147, and continued in another held at Paris the same year, before Pope Eugenius III. who was lately come into France. St. Bernard, on account of his eloquence and learning, was pitched upon to open the charge; but as Gilbert denied that he had ever advanced the propositions imputed to him, it was decreed that his writings should be examined, and the decision referred to the council which was to be held at Rheims the year fallowing. In this synod Gilbert openly maintained what he had taught in his writings, that the godhead, or form by which God is God, is really distinguished from God; likewise that his wisdom, justice, and other attributes, are not really God himself; that the divine nature or essence is really distinct from the three persons, and that the divine nature was not incarnate, but only the second Person, which he held to be really distinct from the nature. St. Bernard demonstrated that no real distinction can be admitted between the nature and the persons, or between the attributes and the nature, or between the attributes themselves; for in God all is perfect unity and simplicity, without any real distinction, except that of relation between the three Persons; any other real multiplicity must produce a composition repugnant to the essential simplicity and unity of God. Four propositions of Gilbert were censured by this council, and he himself retracted and condemned them. On this account his person was spared. Some of his disciples continued to maintain his erroneous opinions, and are confuted by St. Bernard. 18 Gilbert died in 1154. 19


The heresies broached by Abelard, Gilbert, and many others, at this time, took their rise from an abuse of the scholastic theology, as Abelard himself acknowledged after his conversion, 20 making a long enumeration of errors which sprung up in his time. The holy scriptures, and the tradition of the church being the sources and foundation of all genuine theology. St. Anselm raised on them his excellent structure, by bringing the different parts more into order, under general heads, and illustrating each part with the additional force of logical reasoning. This method was followed by all sound scholastics, especially St. Thomas, whose divine science was derived from his perfect skill in the holy scriptures, and in the writings of the most approved fathers; taking St. Austin for his chief guide in questions of speculation, St. Ambrose and St. Gregory in moral resolutions, and St. Chrysostom in the interpretation of the holy scriptures; he employs human reasoning with the most happy penetration, but so as to make it every where subservient to these principles; but these were quite lost sight of by some who, in the shoal of philosophers and theologians which appeared in the twelfth age, pursued, in many questions, only the subtle imaginations of their own refining genius; a rock against which many great men have suffered shipwreck in faith. 21 St. Bernard opposed this fatal abuse with that erudition and eloquence of which his works are a standing monument. The Cistercian Order, in its origin, like the Carthusians, was devoted to the practice of penance, assiduous contemplation, and the angelical function of singing the divine praises. Wherefore it did not admit the ordinary dissipation of scholastic disputations. Yet we find a foundation made for teaching little children in a monastery of this Order in the diocess of Bazas, in 1128. 22 And learned men were every where received into it, and allowed all means of improving themselves in the sciences, and of thus serving the church. The first founders, SS. Alberic, Stephen, and Bernard, were persons eminently learned. Conrad, son of Henry, duke of Bavaria, was famous for his learning at Cologn, before he professed himself a monk at Clairvaux, in 1126. Henry, a son of king Lewis the Big, who was a monk under St. Bernard, and afterwards successively bishop of Beauvais, and archbishop of Rheims, was a good scholar; and many among the most eminent doctors in the church embraced this institute. The revision of the bible, made by St. Stephen and his brethren, proves that some of them then understood the Oriental languages. To encourage learning, St. Bernard was very solicitous to furnish all his monasteries with good libraries. 23 The manual labour in which the Cistercian and Benedictin monks at that time employed themselves was not only to till the ground, but frequently to copy books; several beautifully illumined, which were written at Clairvaux, in St. Bernard’s time, are still shown there. 24

The great reputation of the sanctity of St. Bernard and his monks drew many great men to his Order. The monastery of Clairvaux, which is at present a most stately and spacious structure, was in his time a low and mean building; yet he left in it at his death seven hundred monks. He founded, before his death one hundred and sixty other monasteries; and their number was so much increased after his death, that before the dissolution of monasteries in Britain and the northern kingdoms, eight hundred abbeys were subject to Clairvaux, being filiations of that house. In 1126, Otho, the son of Leopold, duke of Austria, and of Agnes, daughter to the emperor Henry IV. brother to the emperor Conrad III. with fifteen other young German princes, one of whom was Henry, earl of Carinthia, made their monastic profession together at Morimond; in 1115 thirty gentlemen had done the same on one day at Citeaux; a company of young noblemen did the like at Bonnevaux; once at Clairvaux one hundred novices took the habit on the same day. The Cistercian annals and Le Nain, mention two persons of quality who professed themselves lay-brothers in this Order, the one to be shepherd of the monastery, the other, whose name was Lifard, to keep the hogs. In 1120, Alexander, a prince of the royal blood of Scotland, and in 1172, Silo, a learned and famous professor at Paris, and Alan, another professor in the same place, so renowned for his skill in theology, and all other sciences, that he was surnamed the Universal Doctor humbly made their profession among the Cistercians in the quality of lay-brothers.
Evrard, earl of Mons, was so touched with compunction for a sin he had committed in war in Brabant, that in his return homewards from that expedition, having disguised himself in mean apparel, he set out at midnight, and, unknown to any one, performed a penitential pilgrimage to Rome and Compostella. After his return he hired himself, in the same spirit of penance, to keep swine under the lay-brothers in a farm belonging to the abbey of Morimond. Some years after, a servant of two officers who in the army had been under his command, coming to this farm to inquire the road, knew him by his voice and features, and in surprise went and told his masters that their lord was there, and keeper of the hogs. They rode up to the place, and though he at first strove to disguise himself, they knew him; and dismounting, embraced him with tears of joy, and all possible tokens of respect. When they had informed the abbot, he came down to the farm, and learned the truth from the holy penitent’s own mouth, who confessed to him his sin with a flood of tears. The abbot persuaded him to take the religious habit, and to complete the sacrifice of his penance in the monastery. Evrard received the advice with great humility and joy, and acknowledging himself most unworthy, made his monastic profession. About the same time he founded the abbey of Einberg in Germany, and that of Mount Saint George in Thuringia. This happened in 1142. His holy death is recorded in the Necrology of the Cistercians on the 20th of March. The lay-brothers were at that time very numerous in this Order; St. Bernard had a particular affection for them, and it seemed his greatest pleasure to instruct them in the interior paths of perfect virtue. It is recorded of one of them at Clairvaux, that he had so perfectly subdued the passion of anger, as always to feel in his heart, instead of any emotion of impatience, a particular affection, and sensible tenderness for any one from whom he received an injury. It was his constant custom to soy an Our Father for every one that did him any wrong, spoke harshly to him, or accused him of any fault in chapter; which practice has from him passed into a rule in this Order. A certain monk, named Nicholas, whom St. Bernard had converted from a secular life in the world, was much afflicted that he lived in the company of saints without the spirit of compunction. St. Bernard comforted him, and by his prayers obtained for him that gift in so eminent a degree, that even when be ate, travelled, or conversed with others, tears trickled down his cheeks.

Our saint had, at Clairvaux, a monk whose name was Bernard, and who took his surname from Pisa in Italy, of which city he was a native. He was a person of learning and abilities, and had made such progress in monastic perfection, that when Pope Innocent II. repaired, and gave to St. Bernard, the monastery of the Three Fountains, commonly called of SS. Vincent and Anastasius, near Rome, the saint appointed him first abbot of the colony which he planted there. Innocent II. died in 1143; his successor, Celestine II., lived in the pontificate only five months and some days; and Lucius II., who followed him, died about the end of his first year, on the 26th of February, 1145. The abbot Bernard of Pisa was chosen in his place, and took the name of Eugenius III. St. Bernard was struck with surprise at the news, and wrote to the cardinals, conjuring them to assist him with their best efforts. Fearing lest so great an exaltation should make him forget himself, and some of the high obligations of his charge, he wrote to him five books, Of Consideration, pressing upon him, without flattery, the various duties of his station, and strongly recommending to him always to reserve time for self-examination, and daily contemplation, applying himself still to this more than to business. He proves to him, that consideration serves to form and to employ in the heart all virtues. He puts the pope in mind, that he is in the utmost danger of falling, by the multiplicity of affairs, into a forgetfulness of himself, and hardness of heart; the thought of which danger made the saint tremble for him, and tell him that his heart was already hardened, and made insensible, if he did not continually tremble for himself. Most succeeding popes have highly esteemed, and been accustomed often to read this excellent work.

King Lewis the Big died in 1137, leaving five sons besides Lewis his successor; namely, Henry, a monk of Clairvaux, who died archbishop of Rheims; Robert, count of Dreux, head of that royal branch, long since extinct; Peter, lord of Courtenay, of which territory he married the heiress, from whom is descended the present family of Courtenays in France; Philip, archdeacon of Paris (who being chosen bishop, modestly yielded that dignity to Peter Lombard), and Hugh, of whom we have no particular account. The father, after the death of his eldest son Philip, had caused Lewis to be crowned in his own lifetime; who thereupon, for distinction, was called Lewis the Young, which surname he retained even after his father’s death. The Christians in Palestine were at that time much distressed. The Latins had, by the first crusade, erected there four principalities, 25 namely, that of Edessa, which comprehended a large country that lay upon the Euphrates; those of Tripoly and Antioch, which were extended all along the sea of Phœnicia; and lastly, the kingdom of Jerusalem, which, by the death of Fulk, in 1142, was devolved on his son Baldwin III., only thirteen years of age. The Saracen caliphs at Bagdat having lately lost their empire, reserved only a sacred authority as interpreters of the Mahometan law; for the Salsuccian Turks, who embraced their religion, obtained the sovereignty first in Persia, and soon after in Asia Minor, and in Syria. In this last country, Melech and Ducat were the first Turkish sultans at Aleppo. Their successor, Sanguin, was a famous general, and at his death, left his warlike son Noradin, possessed of that dignity, a prince endowed with all the qualities of a conqueror. He took Edessa, and threatened the other three principalities of the Christians, who were in no condition to defend themselves, and therefore sent ambassadors into Europe, to desire immediate succour from the Christian princes. Lewis VII. or the Young received the message favourably. Pope Eugenius III. coming into France in 1147, held there several councils to promote a second crusade, and, at the king’s request, commissioned St. Bernard to preach the holy war. This the abbot executed with incredible success in all the chief provinces of France. He afterwards did the same in the principal cities of Germany.

The authority of his sanctity and prudence was not less established in the empire than in Italy and France. When Lothaire II., duke of Saxony, was chosen emperor upon the demise of Henry V. in 1125, the two nephews of the late emperor (Conrad, duke of Franconia, and Frederick, duke of Suabia) raised a dangerous rebellion; but St. Bernard prevailed with them to lay down their arms, and reconciled them to Lothaire, who ruled with great piety and tranquillity, treating even those who had been his enemies with mildness and generosity, and protecting the holy see. He exceedingly honoured St. Bernard, and died, without leaving any male issue, in 1138. Conrad III. succeeded him in the imperial dignity. He, on this occasion, received St. Bernard with honour, took the cross from his hands at Spire, accompanied him through several cities, and the same year set out for the Levant, at the head of an army of sixty thousand horse, and almost as many foot, the bravest that had been seen. King Lewis took the cross in an assembly of the princes and prelates of his realm at Vezelay, in Burgundy, appointed his prime minister, abbot Suger, regent of France during his absence, and followed the emperor into the East. Manuel Comnenus was at that time Emperor of Constantinople, the son of John, and grandson of that Alexis who had used the first crusards so ill. Manuel had some good qualities; but his policy degenerated into trick and treachery. Though Conrad was his brother-in-law, he received him at Constantinople with great coldness. The Germans crossed the straits, and marched through Bithynia towards Lycaonia. Lewis passed the Rhine at Worms, and the Danube at Ratisbon, and marching through Hungary arrived at Constantinople in October, two months after the Germans. Conrad, deceived by guides whom the Greeks had given him, engaged his army in the deserts on the borders of Cappadocia, where his cavalry could not act. In this place the Mahometans surrounded his troops in the month of November, 1147, and cut them to pieces, where not a tenth part of them were able to engage. Conrad, after paying a private visit of devotion to the holy places at Jerusalem the year following returned in great affliction to Germany.


Lewis, passing into Asia, took his route by the sea-side through Smyrna and Ephesus, and advancing towards Laodicea, in Lydia, in the beginning of the year 1148, encamped on the banks of the Meander, a river difficult to pass on account of its depth, and the height of its banks. He crossed it, however, with some loss; but beyond Laodicea, by the ill conduct of him who commanded the van, which he had separated too far from the rest of the army, his rear was cut to pieces. The king escaped with great difficulty. Pushing forwards, he left behind him a great part of his forces at Attalia, a seaport of Pamphylia, where they mouldered away in great want of provisions through the treachery of the Greeks. The king himself went thence by sea into the principality of Antioch, and arrived in the port of St. Simeon in the mouth of the Orontes, five leagues below that capital. Raymund, prince of Antioch, the queen’s uncle, received him with all due honours. The scandalous amours of his Queen Eleanor at Antioch gave him great vexation. However, he laid siege to Damascus; but, through the jealousy of some Christian lords, this enterprise did not succeed. Wherefore the king, having performed his devotions at Jerusalem, returned by sea into Europe. He landed in Calabria, in Italy, and passing through Rome, arrived in France. He found his kingdom in the utmost tranquillity through the wise conduct and steady management of Abbot Suger, who was honoured, with the title of Father of his country, and had the chief share in the administration both in this and the preceding reign. This wise statesman had advised the king against the expedition; but when it was resolved upon, had most liberally concurred to promote it. The ill success of this crusade is chiefly ascribed by all our historians to the treachery of the Greeks; but the finger of God was visible in chastising the sins of the Christians. A great part even of those who composed the crusade were led by no other motive than the prospect of plunder, were lawless, and committed every kind of disorder in their march. To those who were conducted by motives of sincere penance and religion, these afflictions were trials for the exercise of their virtue. This unfortunate expedition raised a great storm against St. Bernard, because he had seemed to promise success. His answer was, that he confided in the divine mercy for a blessing on an enterprise undertaken for the honour of his divine name; but that the sins of the army were the cause of their misfortunes.” 26 The zeal of our saint was at the same time employed in the conversion of notorious sinners and heretics.

Henry, an apostate monk, a disciple of Peter Bruis, had spread, in Aquitain and in the diocess of Mans, the same errors which his master and others had propagated in Provence and Languedoc, deceiving and ingratiating themselves with the people by violent invectives against the pope, bishops, and clergy, which is usually the first step towards defection from the church. Cardinal Alberic, bishop of Ostia, was sent by the pope, in 1147, legate into Languedoc and Aquitain, to endeavour to apply some remedy to this evil. The legate took St. Bernard with him in this mission, and the saint, not only by the reputation of his sanctity, and the force and eloquence of his zealous discourses, but also by many evident miracles, animated the faithful, and brought back to the truth many that were seduced. Geoffrey, some time the saint’s secretary, accompanied him at that time, and relates many miracles to which he was an eyewitness. 27 He tells us, that at Sarlat, a town in Perigord, the man of God, blessing with the sign of the cross some loaves of bread which were brought to him for that purpose, said: “By this shall you know the truth of our doctrine, and the falsehood of that which is taught by the heretics, if such as are sick among you recover their health by tasting these loaves.” Geoffrey, bishop of Chartres, who stood near the saint, being fearful for the event, said: “That is, if they taste with a right faith, they shall be cured.” But the holy abbot replied: “I say not so; but assuredly they who taste shall be cured, that you may know by this that we are sent by authority derived from God, and preach his truth.” Accordingly, a great multitude of sick persons were cured by tasting that bread. The same author assures us, that when the saint lodged at St. Saturninus’s, a house of regular canons at Toulouse, one of the canons lay at the point of death, quite emaciated, and so weak that he could not rise from his bed even on the most necessary occasions; but that by a visit and prayer of the saint, he was restored to perfect health. “That instant,” says our author, “he rose from his bed, and following after, overtook us, and kissed the blessed man’s feet, with that eager devotion which is not to be imagined but by those who saw it.” The bishop of the place, the legate, and the people went to the church, the man who had been sick leading the way, and gave thanks to God for this blessing. This canon became a monk of Clairvaux, and was abbot of Valdeau when this account was written. Many other like miracles were wrought by the man of God at Meaux, Constance, Basil, Spire, Frankfort, Cologn, Liege, and other places where he preached, as the same author relates; 28 some in presence of the Emperor Conrad and his court at Spire, all publicly, persons of the first rank in the church and state looking on, and confessing, with astonishment, that the hand of God was with his servant.

Fleury has inserted in his history a journal of this saint’s miracles, attested by ten venerable and faithful vouchers, 29 and Mabillon has proved their incontestable authenticity. 30 But we may regard his admirable sanctity as the greatest of his miracles. This, diffusing its bright beams on every side, was a light not only to his own disciples, but to the whole church. In 1151 Gumard, king of Sardinia, made a visit to Clairvaux, and was so edified with what he saw practised there, that he returned the year following, and made his religious profession in that house. In 1148 Pope Eugenius III. visited the saint at Clairvaux, and afterwards assisted at the general chapter of that Order held at Citeaux, in which the whole Order of Savigni, consisting of thirty monasteries, passing into that of Citeaux, out of respect to St. Bernard, became a filiation of Clairvaux. The saint had founded a monastery for nuns of his Order at Billette or Julli, in the diocess of Langres, in 1113. His sister, St. Humbeline, embraced this institute in 1124, and by the abundance of graces that heaven bestowed on her, she arrived at so high a degree of sanctity as to be the admiration of all who saw her, and a subject of the greatest joy to her holy brother and director. She often watched almost the whole night in reciting psalms, and meditating on the sacred passion of Christ, taking only a little rest on some boards. She was always one of the first at every duty of the community, and acquitted herself in a manner that edified the most fervent, and inflamed those that were lukewarm. Thus she lived seventeen years. In her last sickness she was visited by St. Bernard, and amidst his prayers and exhortations, in sentiments of holy joy and humble confidence in the divine mercy, she breathed out her holy soul on the 21st of August, 1141. Her name is commemorated among the saints.

In the beginning of the year 1153 St. Bernard fell into a decay, with a loss of appetite and frequent fainting fits. He had long dwelt in heaven in desire, sighing continually under the weight of his banishment from God; though this desire he by humility ascribed to pusillanimity, not to charity. “The saints,” said he, “were moved to pray for the corporal dissolution out of a desire of seeing Christ; but I am forced hence by scandals and evils. I confess myself overcome by the violence of storms, and through want of courage.” 31 Such desires arising from pusillanimity would be a criminal impatience; but the vehemence of divine love was the spring of these ardent sighs in our saint, as he pathetically discovers in many other passages. 32 His distemper considerably abating, he ascribed this symptom of recovery to the prayers of his spiritual children, with whom he expostulated as follows: “Why do you detain a wretched sinner here below? your prayers have prevailed over my wishes; but have compassion on me, suffer me to go to God.” However, he clearly foretold them, that this delay would not exceed six months. During this interval the inhabitants of Metz having been attacked and defeated with great slaughter, by certain neighbouring princes, they were vehemently bent on revenge. To prevent the shedding of blood the Archbishop of Triers went to Clairvaux, and fell at the saint’s feet, earnestly entreating him to undertake a journey to Metz, in order to reconcile the parties who were at variance. At this call of charity the servant of God forgot his corporal infirmity, and immediately repairing thither, prevailed on both sides to lay aside their resentment, and overcome their former enmity by mutual benefactions, and tokens of sincere charity and kindness. When he was come back to Clairvaux his distemper returned with more grievous symptoms. With regard to physicians he doubtless observed his own rule, 33 not neglecting ordinary helps and medicines, yet rejecting those that are extraordinary, and the instruments of delicacy, not of real service; but his disease was too strong for nature to resist with all the succours which art could bring to its relief. His stomach was so weak as to be scarcely able to bear the least nourishment taken even in liquids, his legs swelled exceedingly as if he had had a dropsy, and he was hardly able so much as to close his eyes for ever so few moments. Seeing his spiritual children assembled about him all in tears, he comforted and encouraged them, saying that the unprofitable and unfruitful servant ought not to occupy a place in vain, and that the barren tree with good reason ought to be plucked up. His charity for them inclined him to be willing to remain with them till they should be gathered with them to God; but his earnest desire speedily to enjoy Christ made him to sigh ardently after the possession of Him who filled the whole capacity of his heart. Commending therefore his brethren to the divine mercy, he, with inflamed sighs of compunction and holy love, prepared himself for his last moment; in which he happily yielded up his soul to God, on the 20th of August, 1153, the sixty-third of his age, having been abbot thirty-eight years. He was buried before our Lady’s altar at Clairvaux. His name was solemnly enrolled among the saints by Alexander III. in 1165. M. Villefore has prefixed to the life of St. Bernard his portrait, engraved from an old picture drawn from the life when the saint was sixty-two years old.

This holy doctor was during his life the oracle of the church, the light of prelates, and the reformer of discipline; since his death he still continues to comfort and instruct devout persons by his most pious and learned writings. The judicious critic Henry Valois hesitates not to say they are the most useful for piety among all the works of the fathers of the church, though he is the youngest of them in time. To pass over the eulogiums which pious writers have bestowed on him, and to appeal to the judgment which the merit of his works hath extorted from the most severe and dry critics, Sixtus Senensis saith of him: “His discourse is every where sweet and ardent; it so delighteth and fervently inflameth, that from his most sweet tongue honey and milk seem to flow in his words, and out of his most ardent breast, a fire of burning affections breaks forth.” Erasmus gives him this character: “Bernard is cheerful, pleasant, and vehement in moving the passions.” And in another place: “He is Christianly learned, holily eloquent, and devoutly cheerful and pleasing.” 34 The Protestants who oppose his doctrine, admire his piety and learning. Bishop Morton says of him: “In the midst of darkness, Bernard shone forth with the light as well of his example as of his learning.” And Bishop Carleton writes, amidst many invectives: “I would to God we had at this day many, nay, but one such as it is certain and manifest Bernard was.”

The eminent sanctity and sublime gift of contemplation which we admire in the saint, had their foundation in his profound humility. We shall be so far disciples of Christ as we shall imitate his servant in the study of this virtue. It is a lesson which St. Bernard often repeats, that it is to be acquired by the knowledge of ourselves and of God, and by frequent humiliations. “Let thy consideration begin from thyself and end in thyself! what, who, and what kind of being thou art,” says this saint. 35 He complains that many men know many things; measure the heavens, count the stars, and pretend to dive into mysteries of faith, and secrets of nature; whose science is all folly and empty vanity, because they know not themselves, consequently have not learned the first elements of the science of the saints. Learning, which fills men with presumption and self-conceit, banishes the Holy Ghost with his gifts out of their souls; the most illiterate idiot is more capable of receiving him and his heavenly wisdom. So long as men see in their own imagination, not themselves, but certain phantoms raised by their own pride, quite different from what they are, so long are they incapable of true piety, of the gift of prayer, and of the true heavenly treasure. A deep sense of our own entire nothingness, weakness, sinfulness, and unworthiness, which makes us empty of ourselves, and ready to give all glory to God alone, is the key to the grace of compunction, contemplation, divine love, and all sincere and Christian virtue. This knowledge of ourselves must be improved and perfected by the study and knowledge of God, his infinite greatness, goodness, mercy, glory, and other perfections, in which we most perfectly see our own nothingness, and learn sincerely to give all glory to God alone, and to place our whole trust in him and in his mercy. As one ray of the sun enlightens the earth much better than all the stars together; so one ray of this heavenly light discovers to us our own imperfections and miseries more clearly than all our study and reflections on ourselves can do. This knowledge of God is chiefly infused into our souls through the channel of contemplation and devout humble prayer, in which, the nearer our hearts approach the throne of God, and the more they see his infinite majesty, the more shall we with Abraham, Isaias, and Job, drown ourselves in the abyss of our own nothing. Hence we must pray with St. Austin: “Lord teach me to know thee, and to know myself:” thee to love and glorify alone in all things; myself, never secretly to confide in, or ascribe any good to. Domine noverim te, noverim me. St. Bernard adds, that besides the foundation of this double knowledge, humility is to be improved by repeated humiliations. “Humiliation,” says he, “is the road to humility, as meekness in suffering tribulations and injuries produces patience. If you do not exercise humiliations, you cannot attain to humility.” Humiliatio via est ad humiliatatem. Si non vis humiliari, non poteris ad humilitatem proveki. 36


Michael Willman Saint Bernard in His Companions before Abbot of Cîteaux, after 1701, Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, Warsaw (originally in Cistercian monastic church Lubiąż Abbey - St. Bernard's chapel)



Note 1. Longueval Hist. de l’Egl. tie France, 1. 24, p. 474; Gul. vit. S. Bern, c. 11. [back]

Note 2. The first work which St. Bernard published was his treatise on the twelve degrees of humility, which are mentioned in the rule of St. Bennet. This book is very moving, and contains abundance of good matter. It was followed, in 1120, by his Homilies on the Gospel. Missus est, written to satisfy his own devotion towards the mystery of the incarnation, and the Blessed Virgin Mary. The congregation of Cluni, a reformation of the rule of St. Bennet, after having nourished in great reputation, fervour, and discipline two hundred years, began to swerve from its first severity; and some of its members, moved by the secret passions of envy and jealousy, which easily disguise themselves under the name of zeal, openly censured and declaimed against the austerity of the Cistercians. William, abbot of St. Thierry’s, near Rheims, a member of that congregation, out of his great esteem of this new Order, desired St. Bernard to employ his pen in its defence.

  This drew from him his Apology. In the first part he justifies his monks, and declares that if any of them were guilty of judging or backbiting others, all their fasts, watchings, and labours could not avail them; they would be the most miserable of men to lose the fruit of all their penance by detraction. “Was there not at least a more easy and tolerable road to hell,” says he to those monks who lived in the greatest austerities, yet gave entrance to detraction among them? He shows that spiritual exercises are more profitable than corporal, and allows the Order of Cluni to be the work of saints, though at that time, in favour of the weak, only moderate austerities were prescribed in it. But, for fear of approving the grievous irregularities which had crept into some monasteries, he adds a sharp invective against them. He says, that in them, several vices had even obtained the name of virtues; profuseness was called liberality; much talking, common civility; immoderate laughing, necessary gaiety; superfluous ornaments and pride in dress and attendance, good breeding. He facetiously inveighs against their excess and niceness in eating and drinking, extravagance in their entertainments, vanity in habits, which were given to monks as marks of humility; against the stateliness of their buildings, and profuseness of costly furniture; things no way suiting persons who profess themselves to be no more of the world, who have forsaken all the pleasures and riches of life for the sake of Jesus Christ, who have cast at their feet all that glitters in the eyes of the world, and have fled from whatever feasts the senses, or is an incentive of vanity. He complains, that some abbots, whose lives ought always to be examples of recollection, humility, and penance, by their sumptuous equipages, dissipation, table, and commerce with the world, give to their monks, by their example, instructions of vanity and a worldly spirit. To excuse such disorders, or to see them, and be silent, he says, would be to authorize and encourage them. Dom Rivet observes, that monastic discipline began to be relaxed at Cluni after the death of St. Hugh, principally under the Abbot Pontius; but was restored for some time by Peter Maurice.

  St. Bernard’s book, Of Conversion to the Clerks, was composed by him at Paris, in 1122, and was addressed to the young ecclesiastics of that university. It is an exhortation to repentance, and an invective against ambitious, slothful, and disorderly ecclesiastics. His Exhortations to the Knights of the Temple, addressed to Hugh de Paganis, the first grandmaster and prior of Jerusalem, was penned in 1129, and is an eulogium of that military Order, which had been lately established in 1118; and an exhortation to the knights to acquit themselves courageously in their several posts. He says, that whereas other wars were usually begun by anger, ambition, vain-glory, or avarice, those which these knights undertook had no other motive than that of justice, and the cause of Christ; that, whether they conquered or were killed, they were gainers; that they did nothing but by the command of their prior, had nothing but what he gave them, used nothing superfluous in their habits, lived regularly, and without wives and children, pretended to nothing of their own, nor even so much as wished for more than they had; they never gave their minds to any sports, delighted in no shows, nor sought after any honour, but waited for victory from the Lord. This was the original institute of the Templars. But when riches flowed into the Order, it became a prey to worldly men.

  St. Bernard, in his treatise Of the Love of God, says, that the manner of loving God is to love him without measure; to fix no bounds to his love in our souls, but to labour always to love him more; the motive of loving him is because he is God, and loves us; the recompence of his love is this love itself, which makes us happy in time and eternity; its source and origin is charity and grace, which God infuses into our souls. He distinguishes the degrees of this love, and teaches that it is one degree to love God for our own happiness; another to love him both for ourselves, and for him; a third to love him purely on his account; but that the utmost perfection and supreme purity of this love is only to be obtained in heaven; the chaste and pure love of God is charity, and differs from that love of God desire, which is interested, and for ourselves; good, indeed, but less perfect than charity. His book On the Precept and Dispensation, was written in 1131, and contains answers to several queries concerning certain points of St. Bennet’s rule, in which an abbot can or cannot dispense.

  The book On Grace and Free-will, was compiled by St. Bernard to prove the necessity of both upon the principles of St. Austin.

  His treatise addressed to Hugh of St. Victor is an explication of several difficulties concerning the divine decrees of the incarnation and other theological points.


  St. Bernard’s treatise On the Errors of Abelard, and his five books Of Consideration to Pope Eugenius III., which are the masterpiece of his works, are spoken of elsewhere. This last work was preceded by that On the Duties of Bishops, addressed to Henry, archbishop of Sens, written in 1127, in which he treats of the chastity, humility, pastoral care, and weighty obligations of bishops, and speaks against those abbots who sought to exempt themselves from the episcopal jurisdiction.


  This father’s sermons on Ps. xc., Qui habitat, &c. were composed about the year 1145. His eighty-six sermons on the Canticles explain only the two first chapters, and the first verse of the third chapter of that sacred book; but, by mystical and allegorical interpretations, he most beautifully treats of an infinite number of moral and spiritual subjects. His thoughts on humility, compunction, divine love, and the interior paths of contemplation interspersed in this excellent work, are admirable. William, abbot of St. Thierry, has abridged the first fifty-one of these sermons. Gilbert, a monk of Holland, an abbey of the same Order in England, dependent of the Bishop of Lincoln, composed a continuation of St. Bernard’s sermons on the Canticles, in forty-eight discourses, about the year 1179, and brings the explication down to the tenth verse of the fifth chapter. St. Bernard’s sermons throughout the year abound with excellent maxims, and lively thoughts of piety, very proper to move the heart. He expresses the most tender devotion to the passion of Christ, and to the Blessed Virgin Mary.


  The style of these sermons demonstrates that they were delivered in Latin; which language the monks understood, though many among the lay-brothers did not, as Mabillon observes, who proves, (t. 1. p, 706, n. 8,) that in their favour the exhortations of St. Bernard were translated into French, probably by the author himself; for a collection of them, written in that language in or near his time, is kept in the library of the Feuillants at Paris, a specimen of which Mabillon has published. (Præf. in Serm. S. Bern. p. 716.) Pasquier, Dupleix, and Du Cange think that the Latin tongue entirely extinguished in Gaul the Celtic or old Gaulish, but not the language of the Franks for some time. Most of the French indeed, especially in towns, also understood and spoke Latin, not only as a language of the learned, but as a vulgar tongue among them. For in several countries two or more vulgar languages have been in use at the same time, as the inhabitants of Marseilles had three vulgar dialects at once when Varro wrote, whose testimony is produced by St. Jerom. Thus, though the Franks retained for some time their Teutonic language, they also learned and used the Latin as a vulgar tongue, especially the gentry, the inhabitants of cities, and all who had a liberal education, or kept good company; and this at length quite obliterated among them the Teutonic language; for all the present dialects of the French, even those of Limousin, Provence, Languedoc, Buges, Querci, &c., are evidently formed from a corruption of the Latin; for the Franks, when they settled in Gaul, soon accustomed themselves to the Latin tongue, mixing with, not extirpating, the Latinized Gauls. To this the commerce with sciences, the very alphabet, and the Christian religion which they learned from the Latins, were great inducements. But among them the Latin language, which had been then long upon the declension, degenerated continually more and more from its purity. This produced the modern French, commonly called the Romance or Romanciere language in Gaul, which varied in the different provinces, by a consequence so much the more natural as this new language was brought under no regulation, and had no standard for several ages. It began to be formed in the eighth century; but, except in trifling romances and the like translations, was not made use of in writing before the eleventh age; but all who preached or read anything before an audience, in which many did not understand Latin, used afterwards to add in the romance tongue some explication of what had been said or read in Latin. In the eleventh age, some began to commit considerable translations to writing, and in the twelfth century some wrote books in the Romance or modern French. (See Hist. Littér. de la France, t. 7, Pref. pp. 45, 54, 58, t. 9; Pr. pp. 147, 148, and t. 8. Advertisement prélim. Du Cange, Spicil. t. 7, p. 393; t. 6, p. 622; t. 12, p. 534. Martenne, Anecd. t. 1, p. 572. The judicious and learned Fontanini, in Vindiciis Diplom. antiq. l. 1, c. 7.) By this means the language began to be polished, and reduced to rule, which, in the last century, the French academy brought to great perfection. Among its dialects in Burgundy, it was intermixed with a great alloy of the old Burgundian language; in the southern provinces of France the Provençan, Languedocian, and Gascon dialects, with that of the Visigoths; and afterwards that in Neustria with the Norman; so that these dialects are at this day often not intelligible to those who speak pure French.


  The Maurist Benedictin monks, in the Histoire Littéraire de la France, (t, 9, pp. 129, 130, 131, &c.) prove, from the letters, poesies, and books written by nuns, or addressed to them; also from the Latin schools established among them, that down to the fourteenth century it was usual for choir nuns to learn the Latin tongue. In languages derived from the corruption of the Latin in other countries, as the Italian and Spanish, the custom of using them in written compositions is not more ancient. (See Fleury, Hist. Eccl. l. 73, n. 13.) Hence we understand why the sermons and like compositions of those ages in France, Italy, &c. are all in Latin.

  The style of St. Bernard’s sermons is smooth and elegant; it has an agreeable sweetness, but is thought too flowery, though his figures and images are so natural, beautiful, and lively, that this defect, if it be one, is itself pleasing. His funeral oration on the death of his brother Gerard, who had been his assistant in the government of his abbey, is a most eloquent and affecting composition; in which he expresses his comfort in the assurance of his brother’s happiness, and his own grief for the loss of him who was his chief counsellor and support, in so tender a manner, as to show the saints are not insensible. (Serm. 206, in Cant.) Gerard died in 1138. Ten years after, St. Bernard made a funeral oration on St. Malachy, in 1148, and another on his anniversary. In this kind of composition nothing has appeared in the Latin tongue equal to these three pieces since the Augustan age, says Dom Rivet and his continuators. (Hist. Littér. t. 10, Pref.) The letters of St. Bernard, published by Mabillon, amount to above four hundred and forty. They are addressed to popes, kings, bishops, abbots, and others, and are monuments of his learning, prudence, and indefatigable zeal. John the Hermit attributes to St. Bernard the Salve Regina; but only the last words were added by him: (see Bibliotheca Patrum Cistertiensium, p. 44:) that anthem is expounded in the sermons of Bernard, archbishop of Toledo, who died in 1128, and is mentioned by others anterior to St. Bernard. Albericus in his chronicle (ad an. 1230, p. 263,) informs us that it was composed by Adhemar, bishop of Puy, in Valay, in 1080. That prelate was son to a famous count and general of Dauphiné, and eminent for his prudence, learning, and extraordinary piety. Being legate of Pope Urban II. in the crusade, he died at Antioch in 1095. His heroic virtues are exceedingly extolled by William of Tyre, (l. 7, c. 1,) Guibert of Nogent, Ordericus Vitalis, &c.

  As to the other works, some of which have been translated into English, falsely bearing the name of St. Bernard. The Ladder of the Cloister is the work of Guigo, fifth prior of the great Chartreuse, author of several spiritual letters: the Meditations are the offspring of an unknown pious person, probably later than St. Bernard. The treatise On the Edification of the Interior House, seems written by some Cistercian monk about St. Bernard’s time; and the treatise On Virtues belongs to some Benedictin monk, and is an instruction given to novices. The book, To the Brethren de Monte Dei, and that On contemplating God, though quoted as St. Bernard’s, are certainly the works of the author of the first book of his life, William, abbot of St. Thierry’s, (a monastery situated one league from Rheims,) who afterwards retired to the Order of Citeaux at Signy, and there died about the year 1550.

  St. Bernard in his writings is equally tender, sweet, and violent; his style is sublime, lively, and pleasant; his charity appears even in his reproaches, and shows that he reproves to correct, never to insult. This gives such an insinuating turn to his strongest invectives, that it gains the heart, and instils both awe and love; the sinner whom he admonishes can only be angry with himself, not with the reprimand, or its charitable author. He had so diligently meditated on the holy scriptures, that almost in every period he borrows something from their language, and diffuses the marrow of the sacred text with which his own heart was filled. He was well read in the writings of the principal ancient fathers of the church, especially SS. Ambrose and Austin, and often takes his thoughts from their writings, though by his ingenious address, and a new turn, he makes them his own. Though he lived after St. Anselm, the first of the scholastics, and though his contemporaries are ranked in that class, yet he treats theological subjects after the manner of the ancients. On this account, and for the great excellency of his writings, he is reckoned among the Fathers. And though he is the youngest among them in time, he is one of the most useful to those who desire to study, and to improve their hearts in sincere piety. A perfect spirit of humility, devotion, and divine charity reigns throughout his writings, and strongly affects the hearts of his readers, as it is the language of his own heart always glowing with ardent love and compunction. The most pious and learned Maurist Benedictin monk, Dom John Mabillon, laid the foundation of his high reputation in the world by the complete edition of St. Bernard’s works, which he published in 1667, in two volumes in folio, and in nine volumes in octavo; he gave a second edition, enriched with prefaces, and additional curious notes in 1690. He had prepared a third edition when he died in 1707; it was made public in 1719. [back]


Note 3. Gul. a S. Theodoric. l. 1, c. 12. [back]

Note 4. Serm. 6, in Cant. [back]

Note 5. Serm. 28, in Cant. Totus in inhorrui, &c. [back]

Note 6. Tr. de Grad. Humil. [back]


Note 7. Ep. 18. [back]

Note 8. Ep. 250. [back]

Note 9. Exord. of Citeaux and Le Nain, Hist. de Cit. [back]


Note 10. S. Bern. ep. 323. [back]

Note 11. Lord Bolingbroke, who often displayed his talent of writing, on subjects with which he had little or no acquaintance, was utterly a stranger to St. Bernard’s character when he passed on him the following most unjust censure: “There is an ambition that burns as hotly under the cowl of a monk as in the breast of a hero. The cell of Bernard was a scene of as much intrigue, and as many ambitious projects, as that of Ferdinand the Catholic, or of Charles V. Bernard exercised a far greater power in his monastery, quietly and safely, than any that princes could boast of, with all the trouble and danger to which they stood continually exposed. Appeals were made, and ambassadors sent to him from different people who solicited him to give them laws,” &c. This noble lord could not have fallen into so injurious a mistake, had he been at the pains of studying the character of sincere humility, compunction, charity, and recollection which all the saint’s actions breathed, according to the testimony of all who knew him, and which his constant slight of all dignities and honours, and the history of his whole conduct make evident. This spirit survives him in the dead letter if his writings, and in the experimental and unaffected sentiments of those virtues which his heart continually discovers in them in a manner which no hypocrisy or enthusiasm could counterfeit. Neither could the mysteries or secrets of divine love which the Holy Ghost manifests in chosen, humble, and mortified souls, enriched with his gift of supernatural prayer; nor the paths of an interior life, which this saint so clearly points out and describes from the experience and fulness of his own soul, for the comfort and direction of those who desire to walk in them, ever fall to the knowledge, or come from the pen, of one not perfectly dead to the world and himself, and in whom the true spirit of God does not reign. If his lordship would confound this with the nonsense and impious jargon of enthusiasts and hypocrites, he ought first to have proved light and darkness to be no longer distinguishable. Though he was still less acquainted with the subject than with this father’s writings, he could not have been willing to try his own skill, or to find any like critic and master of style who should attempt to imitate the unction of a Bernard or of a Thomas à Kempis. A Tully and a Seneca may say the finest things on moral virtues; nor could they choose any more noble subject to display the clearness of their understanding, the fruitfulness of their invention, and the charms and beauties of their eloquence; but the heroic sentiments of humility, holy fear, divine love, &c., which St. Bernard expresses, can come only from a soul full of their spirit. [back]


Note 12. Suger was abbot of St. Denis twenty-nine years ten months, from the year 1122 to 1152, in which he died on the 12th of January, as Dom Gervaise has demonstrated in his Life of Suger, against the mistakes into which several great authors have been led about the year of his death. [back]

Note 13. Ep. 2, ad Fulc. [back]

Note 14. L. 2, c. 4. [back]

Note 15. His younger daughter, Petronilla, was married to Rodolph, count of Vermandois, a prince of the royal family. Eleanor, the elder, was married to King Lewis the Young in 1137; but became insupportable to him by her haughtiness; was convicted of adultery in Syria, and an impediment of consanguinity being discovered, a sentence of divorce was pronounced by the pope. King Lewis generously restored her estates, which many others would have found pretences to keep, and she immediately married Henry, earl of Anjou, and duke of Normandy, who succeeded King Stephen in the throne of England, and became the most powerful monarch then in Christendom, being King of England, Lord of Ireland, Duke of Normandy and Aquitain, and Earl of Anjou, Poitou, Touraine, and Maine. He laid claim to the earldom of Toulouse, pretending it to be a part of the duchy of Aquitain. Thus this marriage became a source of bloody wars, which, for above three hundred years, divided England and France, and more than once brought this latter kingdom to the brink of ruin. These wars were sometimes interrupted, but always broke out again with fresh fury. The mutual jealousy and feuds between the two nations were begun in the reign of the Norman conqueror, and were continually increased by a jarring of interests, especially after these contests. Notwithstanding the aspersions which many historians have cast upon the memory of Queen Eleanor, the heiress of Guienne, M. Arcere, an Oratorian, (Histoire de la Ville de la Rochelle, et du Pais d’Aulnis, printed at Rochelle in 1757,) has drawn up an elegant and ingenious apology for her in which he sets her character in a new light. [back]


Note 16. Duke William was the last male descendant from Ranulph I., a prince of the house of Burgundy who had been made by Charles the Bald, in 844, first duke of Aquitain, upon the extinction of that kingdom, which had been erected by Charlemagne in favour of his son Lewis Debonnair, and continued in some prince or other of the royal family of France till that time. [back]

Note 17. Peter Abelard was born near Nantes, and after learning the first rudiments of the science, gave himself up wholly to the study of the scholastic philosophy. He was a most acute disputant, and whilst a student in logic, sometimes seemed too hard for his master, the famous William of Champeaux, then archdeacon of Paris. Having a great opinion of his own parts, he was very desirous to commence professor: and having obtained a license when he was very young, began to teach logic first at Melun, and soon after at Paris. Abstracted reasonings were his delight, and it was his pride to wrangle with the other masters at all public disputations. The effect of his presumption was the loss both of his faith and of his chastity. Fulbert, a canon of Paris, had a niece of great wit and beauty, named Eloïsa, whom he brought up to learning, and chose Abelard to teach her logic. By unguardedly conversing together a passion was kindled in their breasts, and Abelard desired the uncle to take him to board, under pretence that he could by that means more easily assist her in her studies. Fulbert readily agreed to his request, neither mistrusting the virtue of his niece, nor the prudence of the master, who was in holy orders, and enjoyed a prebend. But this was not to know mankind, or the danger of living in the occasion of sin. They fell, and the uncle was the last person in the neighbourhood that suspected the crime. When he found it out, he turned Abelard out of doors; but Eloïsa followed him into his own country, and was there brought to bed of a boy, who was called Astrolabe. Abelard, whom her injured friends, by an unjust crime and violence, made an eunuch, took the monastic habit at St. Denis’s out of shame, not out of devotion, as he confesses; and Eloïsa put on the veil at Argenteuil.

  Abelard was expelled the abbey soon after, and being cited to a council at Soissons in 1121, was obliged to throw his book, on the Trinity, into the fire, and was shut up in the monastery of St. Medard at Soissons. Being released, he set himself again to teach near Troyes, and there, with the bishop’s leave, founded a church for his scholars, which he called Paraclet or the Comforter, because he there found comfort and refreshment after his troubles. Being chosen abbot of St. Gildas’s of Ruis, near Nantes in Brittany, he gave this first settlement to Eloïsa, and some other nuns who chose to follow her, and she governed this nunnery of Paraclet as prioress. Abelard drew up useful rules and constitutions for that house, a copy of which is preserved in the abbey of Paraclet. The famous letters that passed between him and Eloïsa show they were not yet penitents; the first disposition of a true conversion required not only distance of place, but an entire change of heart, and renouncing of correspondence, or whatever else could entertain or renew their fondness. The style in these letters is affected, not natural, easy, and truly polished and elegant; though they are not destitute of wit and some beauties. Abelard enjoyed some tranquillity, after the condemnation of certain points of his doctrine at Soissons, till the year 1139. His works consist of letters, a history of his own misfortunes, an introduction to theology, fraught with novelties and errors, and several other philosophical and theological tracts. They make a volume in quarto, printed at Paris in 1616. See Dr. Cave, Hist. Liter. and Abelard, Historia calamitatum suarum. [back]


Note 18. Serm. 80, in Cant. [back]

Note 19. The works of Gilbertus Porretanus are only extant in manuscript, except one letter published by Dom Luke Dachery, in his notes on Guibert of Nogent. [back]


Note 20. Abel. Theol. Christian. l. 3 and 4. [back]

Note 21. The General Study of Paris, as it was first called, was founded by Charlemagne about the year 800. King Lewis VI. surnamed the Big or the Fat, was not only a great scholar, but a most zealous patron of the sciences. He succeeded his father Philip I. in 1110. By his protection and encouragement studies began to flourish exceedingly, and there were in his reign more students than citizens at Paris, to which the name of Academy was first given about that time. In the following century it was called the University, from the whole circle of sciences being there taught. The number of students was much increased by the liberty which every one had of disposing of himself as he pleased, after Lewis the Big had abolished many severe customs concerning vassalages, and began to loosen the hard servitude of the people under their immediate lords, who were a kind of subaltern sovereigns in their own estates. So many set up for teachers, and some, like Abelard, sold their lessons at so dear a rate, that such an abuse stood in need of a restraint. Ecolatres or Scholastics were established in cathedrals in the eleventh century, who often governed the bishops’ seminaries. An order was published in the twelfth century, that none should teach without their license. In universities academical degrees were introduced in the same age for this purpose of licensing persons to teach. Some moderns falsely ascribe their institution at Bologna to Gratian, and at Paris to Peter Lombard, and Gilbert de la Porrée, before this latter went to Poitiers. (Egassius Bulæus, Hist. Univers. Paris, p. 255. Baillet, Jugm. des Sçav. t. 1, p. 203.) See this groundless assertion confuted by the authors of the Hist. Littéraire. t. 9, p. 83. The degree of Licentiate was first given at Paris in the twelfth age, and consisted originally in a public license given to teach. Soon after that of Master or Doctor was added. In conferring this degree a wand or bacillus was delivered; whence the name Baccalaurens. The title was, sometime after, made an interior distinct degree.

  The Regular Canons were always part of the clergy, and destined to sacred studies and the functions of the divine ministry. Their famous school and monastery of St. Victor at Paris, which before was a small chapel, was established for this very end in 1113, by Lewis the Big. The celebrated William of Champeaux was the first prior. Hugh of St. Victor, a native of Ypres, was the third prior and professor in this house. He was surnamed the Tongue of St. Austin, whose doctrine he everywhere expounds, without involving himself in the labyrinth of obscure speculations, of which we have a proof in his treatise on the sacraments. He was intimately linked with St. Bernard, who was sensibly afflicted at his death, which happened in 1141, the fortieth of his age. His piety shines in his excellent spiritual and mystical tracts, which yet are not equal to those of his scholar, the eminent contemplative, Richard of St. Victor, who was fifth prior of this monastery, and died in 1173. He was a Scotchman by birth; his mystical treatises on charity, contemplation, and the interior man, are full of excellent matter, though the style is often low.


  A contest arose at that time between the Regular Canons, and the monks, and friars, the former pretending that the latter ought, after the example of the ancient Egyptian monks, to be more employed in manual labour, with their exercises of prayer and contemplation, than in studies or in teaching school. This maxim was espoused by the zealous reformer of La Trappe; but the learned Mabillon has fully justified their studies and schools in his modest answer to that abbot. See his Traité des Etudes Monastiques. Learned men who became monks have always been allowed to pursue their studies in that state; and many in every age have thus been eminently useful to the church. To serve it, monks in many places, began to have schools from the sixth age downwards, and monasteries became the chief nurseries of learning for several ages. Sacred studies and spiritual functions of the ministry, if performed equally in a spirit of humility and penance, are excellently substituted in lieu of manual labour with regard to persons endowed with suitable talents; though, with respect to others who serve not the church, and have no right to live by the altar, St. Austin, in an express treatise, confirms the principle upon which Abbot Rancé recommends penitential labour, as such monks are not applied to the more noble and more useful spiritual functions. What incomparable advantages, in every respect, hath not the church derived from the literary and apostolical labours of many religious men! Several Orders not only of regular clergy, but also of others, as the Preaching Friars, &c., were established chiefly for these purposes. [back]


Note 22. Nartenne Voyage Littér. in 1717, t. 2, p. 10. [back]

Note 23. Hist. Littér. t. 9, Etat des Lettres, 12 Siècle, n. 184, p. 141. [back]

Note 24. Ibid. [back]

Note 25. The Saracen empire was extended by Mahomet’s immediate successor, over Arabia, Persia, part of the Indies, Egypt, Syria, and many other provinces of Asia. Mauvias, great grandson of Ommias, made Damascus the seat of the caliphat in 660. His posterity, called the Ommiades, reigned till 750, when Mervan II. the last prince of that family, being slain, this empire was divided into three. Salim, general of the Chorasmi, made himself sultan of Egypt, Abubalas or Mahamed of Persia, and Abballa II. was founder of the Abbasidæ caliphs at Damascus. His successor and brother Abugiafar, surnamed from his victories Almansor, built Bagdat upon the ruins of Seleucia, near the Tigris. It was thirty-eight miles from the ancient Babylon, which stood upon the Euphrates, yet was often called Babylon, and became the residence of these caliphs. In the twelfth century the caliphat continued there with a nominal sacred jurisdiction, whilst those who obtained the empire were called Sultans or Soldans, which words are by some explained King of Kings. See Du Cange, V. Soldan.

  Towards the tenth age, the Turks from Great Tartary were often intermixed in the armies of the Mahometans, in Asia, so that the historians of those times call the same people sometimes Turks, and sometimes Saracens, till these latter were entirely subdued by the former; though properly these infidels are generally to be called rather Saracens than Turks, till, in 1300, the foundation was laid in Asia of the Ottoman Turkish sovereignty, which swallowed up that of the Saracens. Salsuk was the first Turkish leader that turned Mahometan, and was head of the Salsuccian family of sultans, that reigned some in Persia, some in Syria, and others in Asia Minor. Tangrolipix, grandson of Salsuk, became the first Turkish sultan of Persia, in 1050. His nephew, Cutlu Moses, subdued part of Armenia Cappadocia, Pontus, and Bithynia, and erected the Mahometan kingdom of Lesser Asia, making Nice the place of his residence. His son Soliman was dispossessed of most of his dominions by the Christian princes in the first crusade; and this Soliman’s son Mahomet was entirely ousted by Musat, sultan of Iconium, (a city in Cappadocia), who was a deputy under the Sultan of Damascus, of the same Salsuccian family. Tangrolipix was succeeded in Persia by his nephew Axan, who made Melech and Ducat, Turks of the same family, sultans of Damascus.


  Jerusalem had been conquered by Omar, the second caliph, in 637, and had groaned under the yoke of the Saracens four hundred and forty-two years, till in 1079, the Turkish sultans took their place. The Christians of Palestine had suffered this slavery under their new masters twenty years when the first crusade or holy war, for their deliverance, was set on foot. Alexis I. (Comnenus) the Greek emperor, had earnestly solicited the pope to intercede with the western princes to send him powerful succours against the infidels. Urban II. coming into France, held a council at Clermont, in Auvergne, in 1095, where the project of the crusade was concerted. Peter, a famous hermit near Amiens, who, having made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, had been touched with compassion at the sight of the miseries which the Christians there suffered, and had brought from them moving letters to implore succour, was so great an instrument in promoting the design, that, by an imprudent resolution, he was chosen general to lead the forces into the East.

  Philip I., who was then king of France, was a prince too much addicted to pleasure, and too infamous by his irregularities to be capable of any great undertaking; but an innumerable multitude took the cross, and among others Hugh the Great, count of Vermandois, the king’s brother, Robert, duke of Normandy, son to William the Conqueror, Robert II. earl of Flanders, Stephen, count of Blois, Godfrey of Bouïllon, with his two brothers, Eustachius and Baldwin, Boëmond, prince of Tarento, with Tancred, and other Norman lords, from Naples and Sicily, &c. They took different routes into the East with their troops. Between seven and eight hundred thousand persons, though not all fighting men, marched on this expedition; but many with views altogether worldly; and these committed great disorders in Bulgaria, and other places through which they marched; great numbers were slain by the inhabitants of those countries, and many perished with hunger.

  At Constantinople, the Emperor Alexis, who had only expected a body of troops which would be under his command, was alarmed to see such multitudes, and many ways crossed and betrayed them; till overawed by their threats, he came to an agreement to furnish them with magazines and provisions, and join them with his own forces and fleet, and the crusards promised to restore to him whatever places they should take from the infidels. The multitudes which went before mostly perished, the hermit having made no provision for their subsistence on the road. The princes marched with more caution, and when they arrived in Asia, found, upon a general muster of their army, that their cavalry amounted to one hundred thousand men, and their infantry was much more numerous. In Bithynia they defeated Sultan Soliman in battle, and besieged, and took the strong city of Nice, his capital, which they put into the hands of the Greek emperor. That perfidious prince plotted continually to distress and ruin the forces of the crusards which seemed to him more formidable than the Saracens. If this jealousy was founded in common policy so long as they were in his neighbourhood, it was very unjust when they were at a distance. The Duke of Bouïllon had restrained the corps which he led from committing any disorders with the utmost care and conduct; yet the emperor endeavoured first to starve them, and afterwards came to blows with them. Nor did he ever join them, or send his fleet or forces to them. Wherefore the Latins, when they saw the capitulation thus broke by him, thought no more of yielding to him the fruit of their victories. When they arrived in Syria, Boëmond commanded at the siege of Antioch, and took that city, whilst Duke Godfrey defeated Soliman, who was marching to relieve the place with an army of above two hundred thousand men. Tancred made himself master of almost all Cilicia, and Baldwin of a great part of Mesopotamia. By these conquests the way was opened for them to march into Palestine, the end of their expedition. This country was at that time subject to Musteale, the Saracen caliph of Egypt, an enemy to the Salsuccian Turkish sultans.

  The army of the crusade, by losses, desertions, and garrisons left in places that had been already taken, was reduced to forty thousand men when it sat down before Jerusalem, and the Saracens’ garrison in the place amounted to forty thousand effective men; yet the valiant Duke of Bouïllon forced the outer wall by assault; then having got ready the rolling-castles and other machines which were then used for storming cities, he made a furious attack on the inner wall with patereroes, ballistas, catapultas, and the battering-ram. His courage sustained the besiegers when they gave way; and in the last attack, when the rolling-castle was driven against the wall, he leaped upon it himself with his brother Eustachius, and several other lords; and the breach being made, the Christians forced a passage, and took the city on the 15th July, 1099; four years after the crusade had been published in the council of Clermont. After the victory, both generals and soldiers employed themselves in works of the most tender piety and devotion.

  The week following, the lords chose Godfrey king of Jerusalem, but he refused to put on a crown with which they presented him, saying he would never wear a crown of gold where the Redeemer of the world wore one of thorns. A few days after, he defeated the Sultan of Egypt who came against him, with the Sultan of Babylon and an army of above four hundred thousand foot, and a hundred thousand horse, as Godfrey himself testifies in his letter to Pope Paschal II. He extended his conquests in Palestine, and made the Saracen emirs of Ptolemais, Cæsarea, Antipatris, and Ascalon tributaries to him. Emirs, among the Arabs, were dependent princes or governors; from which word our title of Admirals at sea is thought to be derived.

  Godfrey was the model of Christian heroes; and it is to be wished that his life was carefully compiled. He was son of Eustachius II., count of Boulogne and Lens, and of St. Ida, daughter of Godfrey the Bearded, duke of Lower Lorrain and of Bouïllon, descended from Charles, first duke of Lower Lorrain, brother to King Lothaire, of the race of Charlemagne. Godfrey was the eldest son, according to William of Tyre and Ordericus Vitalis; though others make Eustachius the eldest, who inherited his father’s estate, and whose daughter married our King Stephen. Godfrey, from his infancy, was endowed with a greatness of soul, generosity, compassion, mildness, humility, and modesty that charmed all who conversed with him. His piety and virtue were perfect, constant, and invariable, without shade or blemish. A penetrating wit, a solid judgment, the most intrepid courage, and admirable dexterity and address, and an extraordinary strength of body, were advantages scarcely ever found equal in any other person. With these qualifications of mind and body he received from his father, who was one of the greatest soldiers of that age, an early tincture in every branch of the military profession, and from his mother that profound sense of religion which made him to appear at the head of armies always penetrated therewith no less than if he had always lived in a cloister. Churches and places of devotion were the sanctuaries in which his heart found its chiefest delight; after the divine office he added in them his private devotions so that he was with difficulty drawn from them to his meals. He often complained that he was not able to enjoy the happiness of those who always praise God at the foot of his altars; and he sought, by laying obligations on them, to have some share in their fervour and good works. Blessed Ida being herself versed in the sciences, inspired him with a love of useful learning. He spoke and wrote elegantly in Latin, Teutonic, and other languages, and was perfectly instructed in all the duties of religion.


Duke Godfrey the Crook-backed, his uncle by the mother, died in 1076, having adopted him and his brother Eustachius; and from that time our young hero took the title of Duke of Bouïllon. The Emperor Henry IV. deprived him of the Lower Lorrain at that time, pretending it to have been a male fief, and devolved to him; but in lieu he gave him the marquisate of Antwerp. Godfrey so heroically signalized his valour in the service of that prince in his wars against the Saxons and others, that, in recompence, Henry restored him the duchy of Lower Lorrain, which comprised Liege and Brabant. He mortgaged part of these territories to the church of Liege to defray his expenses in the holy war; but before he undertook that expedition, he attacked and defeated in battle the Emperor Henry IV. because he had most outrageously insulted and injured the Empress Praxedes, Godfrey’s sister. In his wars in the East, his troops were distinguished from all the rest in the crusade by the good order which they everywhere observed. He began and ended every undertaking with the most edifying acts of devotion; for a proof of his extraordinary strength of body, William of Tyre, a most exact and faithful historian, relates, that on the bridge of Antioch, he cut a Turk who had on a coat of mail, quite asunder across the middle of his body, with one stroke of his scimitar; and clove another on horseback from the head downwards to the very saddle, wounding also the horse’s back. Another time, seeing a bear going to kill a poor man who was gathering sticks, he rode up, and the furious beast having killed his horse, Godfrey seized him with his left hand, and, with his right, thrust his sword into his belly to the very hilt. Godfrey would never take the title of king, but only that of duke, and defender of the holy sepulchre. He drew up a code of laws for his new kingdom, under the title of Livre des Assises et des bons Usages du Royaume de Jerusalem, printed in folio at Bourges in 1690. During a sickness of five weeks he prepared himself for death with the piety of a saint, and the true fortitude of a Christian hero, very different from that of a pagan philosopher. He had not reigned a year when he died on the 18th of July, in 1100, being in the vigour of his age; Maimbourg says, about his fortieth year, but produces no authority. His mother, Blessed Ida, survived him, and died in 1113. He was never married. His brother Baldwin, count of Edessa, succeeded him. See William, archbishop of Tyre, Gesta Dei per Francos; Radulfus, Gesta Tancredi in expeditione Hieros. apud Martenne Analect. t. 3. Ordericus Vitalis, Fleury, Choisy, &c.—Godfrey and his conquest of Jerusalem is the subject of Tasso’s justly esteemed poem entitled, Gierusalemme Liberata. [back]


Note 26. S. Bern. l. 2, de Consid. et ep. 288. [back]

Note 27. Vit. S. Bern. l. 3, c. 6. [back]



Note 28. L. 4, Vit. S. Bern. [back]



Note 29. Fleury, l. 69, t. 14, p. 623. [back]



Note 30. Not. in S. Bern. l. 2, de Consid. et in ep. 142, ad Tolosanos. [back]


Note 31. Ep. 189. [back]

Note 32. Serm. 2 and 74, in Cant. Serm. 2, in cap. Jejun. n. 4, &c. [back]

Note 33. See against a too nice and curious use of medicine, in a penitential humble state, St. Bernard, (Serm. 50, in Cant. et ep. 345, ol. 321, p. 316,) St. Ambrose, (in Ps. 118, quoted cap. 21, de consecrat. dist. 5,) St. Basil, (Reg. fus.) &c.; but a prudent care and use of medicine is an indispensable duty of the law of nature itself. How careful the most austere religious Orders were in this particular, appears from their great attention for the sick, and from the four seasons in the year for letting the monks’ blood, so famous in the ancient usages of the Benedictin Order, at which times a particular diet and relaxations were allowed by the monastic rules; but St. Bernard prudently foresaw what came to pass in his Order two hundred years after, that if under pretence of delicate health dispensations in the monastic rule should become too easy, its discipline under this cloak would be entirely enervated; but he could not condemn the use of medicine, as some have pretended; for, in 1160, Alquirin, a monk of Clairvaux, was most famous for the practice of physic. See Biblioth, Cisterc. t. 1, p. 130, and Chifilet, S. Bernardi genus illustre assertum, p. 361. [back]


Note 34. Bernardus et Christianè doctus, et sanctè facundus, et piè festivus Erasm. in c. 1, Rom. p. 243. [back]

Note 35. S. Bern. l. 2, de Consid. [back]

Note 36. S. Bern. ep. 87. [back]

Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73).  Volume VIII: August. The Lives of the Saints.  1866.





San Bernardo di Chiaravalle Abate e dottore della Chiesa


Digione, Francia, 1090 - Chiaravalle-Clairvaux, 20 agosto 1153

Bernardo, dopo Roberto, Alberico e Stefano, fu padre dell'Ordine Cistercense. L'obbedienza e il bene della Chiesa lo spinsero spesso a lasciare la quiete monastica per dedicarsi alle più gravi questioni politico-religiose del suo tempo. Maestro di guida spirituale ed educatore di generazioni dei santi, lascia nei suoi sermoni di commento alla Bibbia e alla liturgia un eccezionale documento di teologia monastica tendente, più che alla scienza, all'esperienza del mistero. Ispirò un devoto affetto all'umanità di Cristo e alla Vergine Madre. (Mess. Rom.)

Patronato: Apicoltori

Etimologia: Bernardo = ardito come orso, dal tedesco

Emblema: Bastone pastorale, Libro

Martirologio Romano: Memoria di san Bernardo, abate e dottore della Chiesa, che entrato insieme a trenta compagni nel nuovo monastero di Cîteaux e divenuto poi fondatore e primo abate del monastero di Chiaravalle, diresse sapientemente con la vita, la dottrina e l’esempio i monaci sulla via dei precetti di Dio; percorse l’Europa per ristabilirvi la pace e l’unità e illuminò tutta la Chiesa con i suoi scritti e le sue ardenti esortazioni, finché nel territorio di Langres in Francia riposò nel Signore.
A ventidue anni si fa monaco, tirando con sé una trentina di parenti. Il monastero è quello fondato da Roberto di Molesmes a Cîteaux (Cistercium in latino, da cui cistercensi). A 25 anni lo mandano a fondarne un altro a Clairvaux, campagna disabitata, che diventa la Clara Vallis sua e dei monaci. È riservato, quasi timido. Ma c’è il carattere. Papa e Chiesa sono le sue stelle fisse, ma tanti ecclesiastici gli vanno di traverso. È severo anche coi monaci di Cluny, secondo lui troppo levigati, con chiese troppo adorne, "mentre il povero ha fame".

Ai suoi cistercensi chiede meno funzioni, meno letture e tanto lavoro. Scaglia sull’Europa incolta i suoi miti dissodatori, apostoli con la zappa, che mettono all’ordine la terra e l’acqua, e con esse gli animali, cambiando con fatica e preghiera la storia europea. E lui, il capo, è chiamato spesso a missioni di vertice, come quando percorre tutta l’Europa per farvi riconoscere il papa Innocenzo II (Gregorio Papareschi) insidiato dall’antipapa Pietro de’ Pierleoni (Anacleto II). E lo scisma finisce, con l’aiuto del suo prestigio, del suo vigore persuasivo, ma soprattutto della sua umiltà. Questo asceta, però, non sempre riesce ad apprezzare chi esplora altri percorsi di fede. Bernardo attacca duramente la dottrina trinitaria di Gilberto Porretano, vescovo di Poitiers. E fa condannare l’insegnamento di Pietro Abelardo (docente di teologia e logica a Parigi) che preannuncia Tommaso d’Aquino e Bonaventura.

Nel 1145 sale al pontificato il suo discepolo Bernardo dei Paganelli (Eugenio III), e lui gli manda un trattato buono per ogni papa, ma adattato per lui, con l’invito a non illudersi su chi ha intorno: "Puoi mostrarmene uno che abbia salutato la tua elezione senza aver ricevuto denaro o senza la speranza di riceverne? E quanto più si sono professati tuoi servitori, tanto più vogliono spadroneggiare". Eugenio III lo chiama poi a predicare la crociata (la seconda) in difesa del regno cristiano di Gerusalemme. Ma l’impresa fallirà davanti a Damasco.

Bernardo arriva in una città e le strade si riempiono di gente. Ma, tornato in monastero, rieccolo obbediente alla regola come tutti: preghiera, digiuno, e tanto lavoro. Abbiamo di lui 331 sermoni, più 534 lettere, più i trattati famosi: su grazia e libero arbitrio, sul battesimo, sui doveri dei vescovi... E gli scritti, affettuosi su Maria madre di Gesù, che egli chiama mediatrice di grazie (ma non riconosce la dottrina dell’Immacolata Concezione).

Momenti amari negli ultimi anni: difficoltà nell’Ordine, la diffusione di eresie e la sofferenza fisica. Muore per tumore allo stomaco. È seppellito nella chiesa del monastero, ma con la Rivoluzione francese i resti andranno dispersi; tranne la testa, ora nella cattedrale di Troyes.

Alessandro III lo proclama santo nel 1174. Pio VIII, nel 1830, gli dà il titolo di Dottore della Chiesa.

Autore: Domenico Agasso



PIO XII

LETTERA ENCICLICA

DOCTOR MELLIFLUUS (1)

NEL VIII CENTENARIO DELLA MORTE
DI SAN BERNARDO


Il dottore mellifluo «ultimo dei padri, ma non certo inferiore ai primi»,[2] si segnalò per tali doti di mente e di animo, cui Dio aggiunse abbondanza di doni celesti, da apparire dominatore sovrano nelle molteplici e troppo spesso turbolente vicende della sua epoca, per santità, saggezza e somma prudenza, consiglio nell'agire. Perciò grandi lodi gli vengono tributate non solo dai sommi pontefici e dagli scrittori della chiesa cattolica, ma non di rado persino dagli eretici. Il Nostro predecessore di f.m. Alessandro III, nell'atto di iscriverlo tra l'universale giubilo nell'albo dei santi, così scrisse con riverenza di lui: «Abbiamo rievocato alla nostra memoria la santa e venerabile vita di questo spirito eletto: come egli, sostenuto da una non comune prerogativa di grazia, non solo risplendesse per la sua vita pia e santa, ma anche irradiasse dappertutto nella chiesa di Dio la luce della sua fede e della sua dottrina. Quali frutti egli abbia recato nella casa di Dio con la sua parola e il suo esempio non c'è nessuno, si può dire, in tutta l'estensione della cristianità che lo ignori, avendo egli diffuso le istituzioni della nostra santa religione fino nelle terre straniere e barbare ... e avendo revocato alla retta pratica della vita religiosa ... una moltitudine infinita di peccatori».[3] «Egli fu infatti - scrive C. Baronio - uomo davvero apostolico, anzi vero apostolo inviato da Dio, potente per l'opera e per la parola, che ha reso illustre in ogni dove e fra tutti il suo apostolato con i prodigi che lo accompagnavano, sì da doversi dire che nulla ebbe in meno dei grandi apostoli ... ornamento e sostegno a un tempo di tutta la chiesa cattolica».[4]

A queste testimonianze di somma lode, cui altre senza numero si potrebbero aggiungere, si rivolge il Nostro pensiero, mentre si compiono otto secoli dal giorno in cui il restauratore e propagatore del sacro ordine cistercense piamente passò da questa vita mortale, che egli aveva illustrata con tanto lume di dottrina e fulgore di santità, alla suprema vita. Ci è cosa assai grata meditare e scrivere sui suoi grandi meriti in modo che, non solo i suoi seguaci, ma altresì tutti coloro che pongono il loro diletto in ciò che è vero, bello, santo, ne traggano incitamento a seguire i suoi preclari esempi di virtù.
La sua dottrina fu attinta quasi interamente dalle pagine della sacra Scrittura e dei santi padri, che giorno e notte aveva tra mano e meditava a fondo; non già dalle sottili dispute dei dialettici e filosofi, che più di una volta mostra di stimar meno.[5] Si noti però che egli non rigetta l'umana filosofia che sia genuina filosofia, che conduca cioè a Dio, alla vita onesta e alla cristiana sapienza; ma quella che con vuota verbosità e col fallace prestigio dei cavilli presume con temeraria audacia di assurgere alle cose divine e penetrare interamente i misteri divini, sì da violare - come spesso accadeva anche allora - l'integrità della fede e miseramente sdrucciolare nell'eresia.

«Vedi ... - egli scrive - come [san Paolo apostolo [cf. 1Cor 8,2]] fa dipendere il frutto e l'utilità della scienza dal modo di sapere? Ma che vuol dire modo di sapere, se non che tu sappia con quale ordine, con quale animo, a qual fine, che cosa si debba sapere? Con quale ordine: anzitutto, ciò che è più opportuno per la salvezza; con quale animo: più appassionatamente ciò che più accende l'amore; a qual fine: non per vana gloria o per curiosità o per qualcosa di simile, ma solo per tua edificazione o del prossimo. Vi sono infatti alcuni che amano di sapere solo per sapere; ed è turpe curiosità. Altri che desiderano di conoscere perché essi stessi siano conosciuti; ed è turpe vanità. Ci sono alcuni che desiderano di sapere per vendere la loro scienza, ad esempio, per denaro, per gli onori; ed è turpe mercimonio. Ma ci sono anche di quelli che vogliono sapere per edificare; ed è carità. Ci sono poi coloro che desiderano sapere per esser edificati; ed è prudenza».[6]

Qual sia la dottrina, o meglio la sapienza che egli segue ed intensamente ama, felicemente esprime con queste parole: «C'è lo spirito di sapienza e d'intelletto, il quale come un'ape che reca cera e miele, ben ha donde accendere il lume della scienza e infondere il sapore della grazia. Non speri dunque di ricevere il bacio, né colui che afferra la verità ma non ama, né colui che ama, ma non comprende».[7] «Che cosa produrrebbe la scienza senza l'amore? Gonfierebbe. Che cosa l'amore senza la scienza? Errerebbe».[8] «Risplendere soltanto è vano; ardere soltanto è poco; ardere e risplendere è perfetto».[9] Da dove abbia origine la vera e genuina dottrina e come debba essere congiunta con la carità, egli spiega con queste parole: «Dio è sapienza, e vuol essere amato non solo dolcemente, ma anche sapientemente. ... Altrimenti assai facilmente lo spirito dell'errore si farà giuoco del tuo zelo, se trascurerai la scienza; e l'astuto nemico non ha strumento più efficace per strappar dal cuore l'amore, che se riesce a far sì che si cammini in esso incautamente e non sotto la guida della ragione».[10]

Da queste parole appare ben chiaro che Bernardo con lo studio e la contemplazione ha unicamente inteso di dirigere, stimolato dall'amore più che dalla sottigliezza delle opinioni umane, verso il Sommo Vero i raggi di verità da qualsiasi parte raccolti; da lui impetrando la luce alle menti, la fiamma della carità agli animi, le rette norme per la condotta morale. È questa la vera sapienza, che supera ogni umana realtà e tutto riconduce alla propria fonte, cioè a Dio, per convertire a lui gli uomini. Il dottore mellifluo, dunque, non si fonda sull'acutezza del suo ingegno per procedere con piede di piombo fra gli incerti e malsicuri anfratti del ragionamento, non si fonda sugli artificiosi e ingegnosi sillogismi, di cui tanto abusavano sovente al suo tempo i dialettici; ma come aquila, con lo sguardo fisso al sole, con rapidissimo volo mira al vertice della verità. Infatti, quella carità che lo stimolava non conosce impedimenti e mette ali, per così dire, all'intelligenza. A lui, insomma, la dottrina non è ultima meta, ma è piuttosto via che conduce a Dio; non è cosa fredda, in cui vanamente indugi l'animo, come gingillandosi affascinato da fulgori evanescenti, ma dall'amore è mosso, stimolato, governato. Perciò Bernardo, sostenuto da tale sapienza, meditando, contemplando e amando si eleva alle supreme vette della scienza mistica e si congiunge con Dio stesso, quasi fruendo già in questa vita mortale della beatitudine infinita.

Il suo stile poi, vivace, fiorito, abbondante e sentenzioso, è così dolce e soave da attirare l'animo del lettore, dilettarlo, elevarlo alle cose di lassù; da eccitare, alimentare, dirigere la pietà; da indurre infine l'animo a perseguire quei beni che non sono caduchi e passeggeri, ma veri, certi, eterni. Perciò i suoi scritti furono sempre in grande onore; da essi la chiesa stessa ha tratte non poche pagine celestiali e calde di pietà per la sacra liturgia.[11] Sembrano quasi vivificate dal soffio dello Spirito Santo e vivide di tal luce, che mai può estinguersi nel corso dei secoli, perché nasce dall'animo di colui che scrive, assetato di verità e carità, e desideroso di nutrirne gli altri conformandoli a propria immagine.[12]

Ci piace, venerabili fratelli, riferire circa questa mistica dottrina dai suoi libri, a comune utilità, alcune bellissime sentenze: «Abbiamo insegnato che ogni anima, benché piena di peccati, irretita nei vizi, schiava delle passioni, prigioniera dell'esilio, incarcerata nel corpo, benché, dico, a tal punto condannata e priva di speranza; abbiamo insegnato che essa tuttavia può scorgere in sé tanto, da poter non solo dilatare l'animo alla speranza del perdono, della misericordia, ma perfino da osar aspirare alle nozze del Verbo, da non temere di stringere patto d'alleanza con Dio, da non dubitare di stringere soave giogo d'amore con il Re degli angeli: Che cosa non può osare con sicurezza presso Colui di cui essa scorge in sé la nobile immagine, conosce la splendida somiglianza?».[13] «Tale conformità marita l'anima col Verbo, poiché così essa si rende simile per mezzo della volontà a Colui cui è simile per natura e Lo ama come ne è amata. Se dunque ama perfettamente; ha contratto le nozze. Che cosa vi è di più giocondo di tale conformità? Qual cosa più desiderabile di quella carità da cui proviene che tu, o anima, non contenta degli insegnamenti degli uomini, da te stessa con fiducia ti avvicini al Verbo, sia sempre unita al Verbo, interroghi familiarmente il Verbo e lo consulti su ogni cosa, fatta tanto capace di comprendere, quanto sei audace nel desiderio? È questo veramente un contratto di connubio spirituale e santo. Ho detto poco, contratto: è un amplesso. Amplesso, in verità, in cui volere e non volere le stesse cose fa di due uno spirito solo. E non c'è da temere che la disparità delle persone renda in qualche modo imperfetto l'accordo delle volontà, perché l'amore non sente soggezione reverenziale. Infatti amore viene da amare, non da riverire. ... L'amore abbonda nel proprio senso, l'amore quando giunge assimila e sottomette tutte le altre affezioni. Perciò chi ama, ama ed altro non sa».[14]

Dopo aver notato che Dio vuole dagli uomini esser amato, ancor più che temuto e onorato, aggiunge queste acute e sottili osservazioni: «Esso (l'amore) basta da sé, piace in sé e per sé. Esso è merito, è premio a se stesso. L'amore non ricerca motivo, non frutto fuori di sé. Il suo frutto è l'uso di sé. Amo perché amo; amo per amore. Grande cosa è l'amore, purché ricorra al suo principio, ritorni alla sua origine, rifluisca alla sua fonte, sempre vi attinga di che perennemente scorrere. È solo l'amore, fra tutti i moti, sentimenti e affetti dell'animo, quello in cui la creatura può, anche se non a parità, corrispondere al suo Autore, ovvero restituire vicendevolmente in cosa simile».[15]

Poiché egli stesso ha sovente sperimentato nella contemplazione e nella preghiera questo divino amore che ci permette di congiungerci strettamente con Dio, dal suo animo prorompono queste parole infocate: «O felice (anima), resa degna di esser prevenuta con la benedizione di tanta dolcezza! Felice, poiché le è stato dato di sperimentare un abbraccio così beatificante! Ciò non è altro che amore santo e casto, soave e dolce; amore tanto sereno, quanto sincero; amore scambievole, intimo e forte, che congiunge due non in una sola carne, ma in un solo spirito, fa sì che due non sian più due, ma uno solo, come dice Paolo (cf.1 Cor 6,17): "Chi aderisce a Dio, è un solo spirito con lui"».[16]

Questa sublime dottrina mistica del Dottore di Chiaravalle, che supera e può saziare ogni umano desiderio, sembra al giorno d'oggi talora negletta, o messa da parte, o dimenticata da molti; costoro, presi dalle sollecitudini e dalle faccende quotidiane, non cercano e desiderano altro se non ciò che è utile e redditizio per questa vita mortale; e quasi mai elevano l'occhio e la mente al cielo; quasi mai aspirano alle cose di lassù, ai beni non perituri.

Eppure, anche se non tutti possono attingere le vette di tale contemplazione divina, di cui Bernardo discorre con sublimi pensieri e parole, anche se non tutti possono congiungersi così intimamente con Dio, da sentirsi uniti col Sommo Bene con i vincoli come di un arcano celeste connubio; tutti possono e debbono però elevare di tanto in tanto l'animo da queste cose terrene alle celesti e amare con attiva volontà il Supremo Datore di ogni bene.

Pertanto, mentre oggi in molti animi l'amore verso Dio o insensibilmente si raffredda, o anche non raramente si spegne del tutto, stimiamo che siano da meditarsi attentamente questi scritti del dottore mellifluo; dalla loro dottrina, che del resto scaturisce dal Vangelo, tanto nella vita privata di ciascuno, quanto nell'umano civile consorzio può diffondersi una nuova soprannaturale energia che regga il pubblico costume, lo renda conforme ai precetti della morale cristiana e possa in tal modo offrire gli opportuni rimedi ai tanti e così gravi mali che turbano e travagliano la società. Quando infatti gli uomini non amano come si deve il loro Creatore, donde viene tutto ciò che essi hanno, allora non si amano neppure tra loro; anzi - come troppo spesso accade - nell'odio e nella contesa si separano vicendevolmente con asprezza si avversano. Dio è padre amorosissimo di noi tutti; noi siamo fratelli in Cristo, che egli ha redento versando il suo sacro sangue. Ogni qualvolta, dunque, non riamiamo quel Dio che ci ama e non riconosciamo con riverenza la sua divina paternità, anche i vincoli dell'amore fraterno sono disgraziatamente lacerati; e sventuratamente spuntano fuori - come purtroppo talora si vede - le discordie, le contese, le inimicizie; e queste possono arrivare a tal punto da sconvolgere e scalzare i fondamenti stessi dell'umana convivenza.

È dunque necessario restituire a tutti gli animi questa divina carità che infiammò così ardentemente il Dottore di Chiaravalle, se vogliamo che i costumi cristiani rifioriscano dappertutto, che la religione cattolica possa efficacemente compiere la sua missione e che, sedati i dissidi e restaurato l'ordine nella giustizia e nell'equità, al genere umano affaticato e travagliato rifulga serena la pace.

Di questa carità, per mezzo della quale dobbiamo sempre e con gran fervore essere uniti con Dio, siano infiammati in primo luogo coloro che hanno abbracciato l'ordine del dottore mellifluo, e parimenti tutti i sacerdoti ai quali spetta particolarmente l'obbligo di esortare ed eccitare gli altri a riaccendere il divino amore. Di questo divino amore - come abbiamo detto - se altre volte nel passato, in questi nostri tempi hanno immenso bisogno i cittadini, la domestica convivenza, l'umanità intera. Se esso arde e porta gli animi a Dio, fine ultimo dei mortali, si corroborano le altre virtù; se invece si affievolisce o si estingue, anche la tranquillità, la pace, la gioia e tutti gli altri veri beni a poco a poco si affievoliscono o si estinguono del tutto, come quelli che vengono da colui che «è carità» (1Gv 4,8).
Di questa divina carità nessuno forse ha parlato così bene, con tanta profondità, con tanta forza come Bernardo. «Il motivo per amare Dio, è Dio stesso; la misura, amarlo senza misura».[17] «Dove c'è amore, non c'è fatica, ma gusto».[18] Egli stesso confessa di averlo sperimentato, quando scrive: «O amore santo e casto! O dolce e soave affetto, tanto più soave e dolce, perché è tutto divino il sentimento che se ne prova. Sperimentarlo è divinizzarsi».[19] E altrove: «È cosa buona per me, o Signore, piuttosto stringermi a te nella tribolazione, averti con me nella fornace, che essere senza di te fosse pure in cielo».[20] Quando poi è giunto a quella somma e perfetta carità che lo unisce in intimo connubio con Dio stesso, gode di tanta gioia, di tanta pace, da non potervene essere di più grande: «O luogo della vera quiete, in cui non si vede Dio come turbato da ira o occupato in sollecitudini, ma si sperimenta in lui la sua volontà buona, benevola e perfetta! Questa visione non spaventa, ma accarezza; non eccita inquieta curiosità, ma mette in calma; non stanca i sensi, ma dà pace. Ivi veramente si riposa. Dio tranquillo dà tranquillità in tutto; vederlo pacifico è stare in pace».[21]

Questa perfetta quiete non è già morte dell'animo, ma vera vita: «Tale sopore vitale e vigilante illumina piuttosto il senso interiore e, scacciata la morte, dona la vita eterna. È veramente un sonno, che per altro non assopisce, ma è evasione. È anche morte - non temo di dirlo - poiché l'apostolo elogiando alcuni ancor vivi nella carne, dice così (Col 3,3]: "Siete morti, e la vostra vita è nascosta con Cristo in Dio"».[22]

Questa perfetta quiete dell'animo, di cui godiamo nel riamare Dio che ci ama, e fa sì che a lui volgiamo e dirigiamo noi e ogni nostra cosa, non ci porta alla pigrizia, non all'ignavia, non all'inerzia, ma ad un'alacre, solerte, operosa diligenza, con la quale cerchiamo di procurare, con l'aiuto di Dio, la nostra salvezza e anche quella degli altri. Infatti, tale sublime meditazione e contemplazione, incitata e stimolata dall'amore divino, «governa gli affetti, dirige le azioni, corregge gli eccessi, regola i costumi, adorna la vita e vi fa regnare l'ordine, dona infine la scienza delle cose divine e umane. È essa che distingue ciò che è confuso, unisce ciò che è diviso, raccoglie ciò che è disperso, investiga ciò che è nascosto, ricerca il vero, pondera ciò che è verosimile, scopre la finzione e l'artificio. Essa preordina ciò che è da farsi, riflette su ciò che è stato fatto, di modo che nulla rimanga nell'animo di poco corretto o bisognoso di correzione. Nella prosperità essa presente l'avversità, nelle avversità quasi non le sente; l'una è fortezza, l'altra prudenza».[23]

E infatti, benché aneli a restar immerso in sì alta meditazione e soave contemplazione, alimentata dal divino spirito, tuttavia il dottore mellifluo non rimane chiuso tra le pareti della sua cella, che pur «custodita è dolce»,[24] ma dovunque sia in questione la causa di Dio e della chiesa, è subito presente col consiglio, con la parola, con l'azione. Asseriva infatti che non «deve ognuno vivere per sé, ma per tutti».[25] Di se stesso, poi, e dei suoi così scriveva: «In tal modo anche ai nostri fratelli tra cui viviamo, siamo debitori, per diritto di fraternità e umano consorzio, di consiglio e di aiuto».[26] Quando con dolore vedeva minacciata o perseguitata la nostra santa religione, non risparmiava fatiche, non viaggi, non premure per difenderla strenuamente e porgerle aiuto secondo le sue possibilità. «Nulla mi è estraneo - diceva - di ciò che si riveli interesse di Dio».[27] E al re Ludovico di Francia scrive queste coraggiose parole: «Noi figli della chiesa, non possiamo in alcun modo dissimulare le ingiurie recate alla nostra madre, il disprezzo verso di lei, i suoi diritti conculcati... Per certo staremo saldi e combatteremo fino alla morte, se sarà necessario, per la nostra madre, con le armi che ci si addicono; non con gli scudi e le spade, ma con le preghiere e le lacrime al cospetto di Dio».[28] A Pietro, abate di Cluny: «Mi glorio nelle mie tribolazioni, se sono stato ritenuto degno di soffrirne alcuna per la chiesa. Questa è la mia gloria che esalta il mio capo, il trionfo della chiesa. Se infatti siamo stati compagni nella fatica, lo saremo anche nella consolazione. È stato doveroso collaborare con la nostra madre, unirci alla sua passione ...».[29]

Quando poi il corpo mistico di Gesù Cristo fu conturbato da scisma così grave che anche i buoni rimanevano dubbiosi tra le due parti, egli si consacrò interamente per comporre i dissidi e per la felice riconciliazione e unione degli animi. Poiché i prìncipi, per ambizione di dominio terreno, erano separati da spaventose discordie, dalle quali potevano derivare gravi danni per i popoli, egli si fece artefice di pace e riconciliatore per una mutua concordia. Infine, poiché i luoghi santi della Palestina consacrati al divino Redentore col proprio sangue erano in gravissima condizione ed esposti all'ostile pressione di eserciti stranieri, per mandato del sommo pontefice incoraggiò con alte parole e più alta carità i prìncipi e i popoli cristiani ad una nuova crociata; se questa non sortì felice esito, non fu certo per sua colpa.

Trovandosi poi soprattutto esposta a gravissimi pericoli l'integrità, trasmessa dagli avi quale sacra eredità, della fede cattolica e dei costumi, per opera soprattutto di Abelardo, di Arnaldo da Brescia e di Gilberto della Porretta, egli, sia con la pubblicazione di scritti colmi di dottrina, sia con faticosi viaggi, tentò, sorretto dalla divina grazia, tutto ciò che gli fu possibile, per debellare e far condannare gli errori, e perché gli erranti, per quanto era in suo potere, ritornassero sulla retta via e a miglior consiglio.

Egli, consapevole che in questa cosa non importava tanto la sapienza dei dottori, quanto l'autorità soprattutto del romano pontefice, si diede cura d'interporre tale autorità, da lui riconosciuta, nel dirimere tali questioni, come suprema e del tutto infallibile. Pertanto al Nostro predecessore di f.m. Eugenio III, già suo discepolo, scrive queste parole, che rivelano il suo amore e la profonda riverenza verso di lui, unita con quella libertà d'animo che si addice ai santi: «L'amore non conosce il padrone, conosce il figlio anche sotto la tiara. ... Ti ammonirò dunque non come maestro, ma come madre; certamente come uno che ti vuol bene».[30] Lo interpella in seguito con queste ardenti parole: «Chi sei? Il gran sacerdote, il sommo pontefice. Tu sei il principe dei vescovi, l'erede degli apostoli ... Pietro per potestà, per unzione Cristo. Sei colui al quale sono state consegnate le chiavi, affidate le pecorelle. Vi sono anche altri portinai del Cielo e pastori di greggi; ma tu sei tanto più glorioso, quanto più grande è la differenza con cui hai ereditato al disopra degli altri entrambi questi nomi. Quelli hanno assegnati i loro greggi, a ciascuno il proprio: a te sono stati affidati tutti, a te solo nell'unità. E non soltanto tu sei pastore dei greggi, ma unico pastore di tutti i pastori».[31] E ancora: «Deve uscir al di fuori di questo mondo chi volesse ricercare ciò che non appartiene alla tua cura».[32]

Riconosce poi apertamente e pienamente l'infallibilità del magistero del romano pontefice, per quanto riguarda la fede e i costumi. Infatti, quando combatte gli errori di Abelardo, il quale «allorché parla della Trinità, risente di Ario; quando della grazia, sa di Pelagio; quando della persona di Cristo, sa di Nestorio»;[33] «egli che pone dei gradi nella Trinità, delle modalità nella maestà, successione numerica nell'eternità»;[34] e in lui «l'umana ragione usurpa tutto per sé e nulla lascia alla fede»;[35] egli non discute le sottili, contorte e ingannevoli fallacie e cavilli, li dissolve e li confuta, ma scrive altresì al Nostro predecessore d'immortale memoria Innocenzo II per simile motivo queste gravi parole: «Occorre riferire alla vostra autorità apostolica ogni pericolo... quelli soprattutto che riguardano la fede. Penso esser giusto che ivi soprattutto si riparino i danni della fede, dove la fede non può venir meno. E questa è la prerogativa di tale sede... È tempo, Padre amatissimo, che voi riconosciate la vostra potestà... In questo fate veramente le veci di Pietro, del quale occupate la sede, se con i vostri moniti confermate gli animi incerti nella fede, se con la vostra autorità sterminate i corruttori della fede».[36]

Ma da dove questo umile monaco, quasi senza alcun mezzo umano, abbia potuto attingere la forza per vincere anche le più ardue difficoltà, per risolvere intricatissimi problemi e dirimere le questioni più imbarazzanti, solamente si può capire se si pensa all'esimia santità di vita che lo adornava, congiunta con un grande amore della verità. Era infiammato soprattutto, come abbiamo detto, della più accesa carità verso Dio e verso il prossimo, che è, come ben sapete, venerabili fratelli, il principale precetto e quasi il compendio di tutto il Vangelo; di modo che non solo era sempre misticamente unito col Padre celeste, ma ancora niente più desiderava che guadagnare gli uomini a Cristo, sostenere i sacrosanti diritti della chiesa e difendere con invitto coraggio l'integrità della fede cattolica.

In mezzo ai tanti favori e alla stima di cui godeva presso i sommi pontefici, presso i prìncipi e presso i popoli, non si insuperbiva, non andava in cerca della mutevole e vana gloria umana, ma risplendeva in lui sempre quella cristiana umiltà che «raccoglie le altre virtù ... dopo averle raccolte le custodisce ... e conservandole le perfeziona»;[37] sicché «non sembrano nemmeno virtù ... senza di quella».[38] Perciò non agitarono la sua anima gli onori che gli furono offerti, e il suo piede non fu mosso per dirigersi verso la gloria; e non lo attirava «più la tiara o il sacro anello, che il rastrello e il sarchio».[39] Mentre poi si sobbarcava a tali e tante fatiche per la gloria di Dio e l'incremento del nome cristiano, si professava «inutile servo dei servi di Dio»,[40] «vile vermiciattolo»,[41] «albero sterile»,[42] «peccatore, cenere ...».[43] Alimentava quest'umiltà cristiana e le altre virtù con l'assidua contemplazione delle realtà celesti; le alimentava con le infiammate preci rivolte a Dio, con le quali attirava la grazia celeste su di sé e sulle opere da lui intraprese.

In modo specialissimo era preso da così ardente amore per Gesù Cristo, divino redentore, che sotto la sua mozione e il suo stimolo scriveva pagine bellissime e nobilissime, che ancor oggi destano l'ammirazione universale e infiammano la pietà del lettore. «Quale altra cosa arricchisce l'anima che vi medita sopra ... irrobustisce le virtù, fa fiorire i buoni e onesti costumi, suscita casti affetti? È arido ogni cibo dell'anima, se non vi si infonde questo olio; è insipido, se non è condito con questo sale. Se scrivi qualcosa, non lo gusto se non vi leggo Gesù. Se fai una disputa o un ragionamento, non mi piace se non vi risuona Gesù. Gesù è miele nella bocca, dolce concerto all'orecchio, giubilo al cuore. Ma è anche medicina. C'è tra voi qualcuno triste? Gesù scenda nel cuore, salga poi al labbro; ed ecco, alla luce di questo nome ogni nube si dissolve, torna il sereno. Qualcuno ha commesso una colpa? corre disperato al laccio di morte? Ma se invocherà questo nome di vita, non sentirà subito speranza di vita?... C'è qualcuno che, angustiato e trepido tra i pericoli, invocando questo nome di forza non senta subito la fiducia e fugato il timore?... Nulla meglio infrange l'impeto dell'ira, reprime il tumore della superbia, sana la ferita dell'invidia...».[44]

A questo infiammato amore per Gesù Cristo si univa una tenerissima e soave devozione verso la sua eccelsa Madre, che egli, come propria amorosissima madre, ricambiava di amore nutrendo per lei un culto profondo. Aveva tanta fiducia nel suo potente patrocinio, da usare queste espressioni: «Dio ha voluto che noi nulla ottenessimo, che non passi per le mani di Maria».[45] Così pure: «Tale è la volontà di Colui, che ha voluto che noi avessimo tutto per mezzo di Maria».[46]

A questo punto ci è grato, venerabili fratelli, proporre a tutti da meditare quella pagina che è forse la più bella per le lodi della santa vergine Madre di Dio, la più ardente, la più atta a suscitare in noi l'amore verso di lei, la più utile per infiammare la pietà e a imitare i suoi esempi di virtù: «... È detta Stella del mare e la denominazione ben si addice alla Vergine Madre. Ella con la massima convenienza è paragonata ad una stella; perché come la stella sprigiona il suo raggio senza corrompersi, così la Vergine partorisce il Figlio senza lesione della propria integrità. Il raggio non menoma alla stella la sua chiarità, né il Figlio alla Vergine la sua integrità. Ella è dunque quella nobile stella nata da Giacobbe, il cui raggio illumina tutto il mondo, il cui splendore rifulge in cielo e penetra gli inferi... Ella è, dico, la preclara ed esimia stella, che è necessariamente al di sopra di questo grande e spazioso mare, fulgente di meriti, chiara dei suoi esempi. O tu, chiunque sia, che ti avvedi di essere in balìa dei flutti di questo mondo, tra le procelle e le tempeste, invece di camminare sulla terra, non distogliere gli occhi dal fulgore di questa stella, se non vuoi essere travolto dalle tempeste. Se insorgono i venti delle tentazioni, se incappi negli scogli delle tribolazioni, guarda la stella, invoca Maria. Se sei sballottato dalle onde della superbia, della detrazione, dell'invidia: guarda la stella, invoca Maria. Se l'ira, o l'avarizia, o l'allettamento della carne scuotono la navicella dell'anima: guarda a Maria. Se tu, conturbato per l'enormità del peccato, pieno di confusione per la laidezza della coscienza, intimorito per il tenore del giudizio, incominci ad essere inghiottito dall'abisso della tristezza, dalla voragine della disperazione: pensa a Maria. Nei pericoli, nelle angustie, nelle incertezze, pensa a Maria, invoca Maria. Ella non si parta mai dal tuo labbro, non si parta mai dal tuo cuore; e perché tu abbia ad ottenere l'aiuto della sua preghiera, non dimenticare mai l'esempio della sua vita. Se tu la segui, non puoi deviare; se tu la preghi, non puoi disperare; se tu pensi a lei, non puoi sbagliare. Se ella ti sorregge, non cadi; se ella ti protegge, non hai da temere; se ella ti guida, non ti stanchi; se ella ti è propizia, giungerai alla meta...».[47]

Ci sembra che meglio Noi non potremmo terminare questa lettera enciclica, che invitandovi tutti con le parole del dottore mellifluo ad accrescere ogni giorno più la devozione verso l'alta Madre di Dio, e parimenti a imitare col più grande impegno le sue eccelse virtù, ciascuno secondo le peculiari condizioni della propria vita. Se nel secolo XII gravi pericoli minacciavano la chiesa e l'umanità, altri non meno gravi, senza dubbio, minacciano la nostra età. La fede cattolica, che dà all'uomo le più grandi consolazioni, non di rado è indebolita negli animi, e perfino in alcuni paesi e nazioni è aspramente combattuta in pubblico. E quando la religione cristiana è negletta e combattuta dai suoi nemici, si vede purtroppo che i costumi privati e pubblici tralignano dalla retta via e anche talora attraverso i meandri dell'errore si scende infelicemente nel fondo dei vizi.

Al posto della carità, che è vincolo di perfezione, di concordia e di pace, si fanno strada gli odi, le contese, le discordie.

Un che d'inquieto, d'angustioso e di trepido penetra nell'animo umano: c'è proprio da temere che, se la luce del Vangelo a poco a poco diminuisce e languisce in molti, o - peggio ancora - se viene respinta del tutto, verranno a crollare i fondamenti stessi della civiltà e della vita domestica; e in tal modo verranno tempi anche peggiori e più infelici.

Come, dunque, il dottore di Chiaravalle chiese l'aiuto della vergine Madre di Dio Maria e lo ebbe per l'età sua turbolenta, così noi tutti, con la medesima costante pietà e preghiera dobbiamo ottenere dalla divina madre nostra che a questi gravi mali, sovrastanti o temuti, essa impetri da Dio gli opportuni rimedi; e benigna e potente conceda che, con l'aiuto divino, arrida finalmente una sincera, solida e fruttuosa pace alla chiesa, ai popoli, alle nazioni.

Siano questi i pingui e salutari frutti, mercè la protezione di Bernardo, delle celebrazioni centenarie della sua pia morte; tutti si uniscano a Noi in queste preci e suppliche, e ad un tempo, osservando e meditando gli esempi del dottore mellifluo, si sforzino di seguire volenterosamente e con zelo le sue sante tracce.

Di questi salutari frutti sia propiziatrice l'apostolica benedizione che a voi, venerabili fratelli, ai vostri greggi e particolarmente a coloro che appartengono all'istituto di san Bernardo, impartiamo con effusione di cuore.

Roma, presso San Pietro, nella festa di pentecoste, il 24 maggio 1953, anno XV del Nostro pontificato.

PIO PP. XII



[1] PIUS PP. XII, Litt. enc. Doctor mellifluus octavo exeunte saeculo a piissimo s. Bernardi obitu, [Ad venerabiles Fratres Patriarchas, Primates, Archiepiscopos, Episcopos aliosque locorum Ordinarios pacem et communionem cum Apostolica Sede habentes], 24 maii 1953: AAS 45(1953), pp. 369-384.

I molti elogi di s. Bernardo. Sua scienza umana e divina. Bellezza e utilità del suo stile. Sue sentenze sull'unione dell'anima con Dio, particolarmente utili in tempi di naturismo e di laicismo come l'odierno, e altre sulla carità verso Dio e la quiete perfetta che ne ridonda sull'anima devota, stimolo efficace per la salvezza dell'anima propria ed altrui, come san Bernardo mostrò con l'esempio della sua vita, tutta spesa nel difendere la dottrina cattolica e i diritti della Santa Sede. Tra le virtù del santo, l'umiltà e il suo amore verso Gesù Cristo e la sua Madre; loro opportunità nelle angustie del tempo presente.

[2] MABILLON, Bernardi Opera, Praef. generalis, n. 23: PL 182, 26. 

[3] Litt. apost. Contigit olim, XV kal. febr. [17 ian.] an. 1174, Anagniae d.

[4Annal., t. XII, a. 1153, p. 385 D-E, Romae, ex Typographia Vaticani, 1607.

[5] Cf. Serm. in festo SS. Apost. Petri et Pauli, n. 3: PL 183, 332B.

[6In Cantica, serm, XXXVI, 3: PL 183, 968CD. 

[7In Cantica, serm. VIII, 6: PL 183, 813AB.

[8] In Cantica, serm. LXIX, 2: PL 183, 1113A.

[9In Nat. S. Ioan. Bapt., serm. 3: PL 183, 399B. 

[10In Cantica, serm. XIX, 7: PL 183, 866D.

[11] Cf. Brev. Rom. in festo SS. Nom. Iesu; die III intra octavam Concept. immac. B.M.V.; in octava Assumpt. B.M.V.; in festo septem Dolor. B.M.V.; in festo s acrat. Rosarii B.M.V.; in festo S. Iosephi Sp. B.M.V.; in festo S. Gabrielis Arch.

[12] Cf. Fénelon, Panégyrique de St. Bernard.

[13In Cantica, serm. LXXXIII; 1: PL 183, 1181CD. 

[14In Cantica, serm. LXXXIII, 3: PL 183, 1182CD. 

[15In Cantica, serm. LXXXIII, 4: PL 183, 1183B.

[16] In Cantica, serm. LXXXIII, 6: PL 183, 1184C.

[17De diligendo Deo, c. I:  PL 182, 974A.

[18In Cantica, serm. LXXXV, 8: PL 183, 1191D.

[19De diligendo Deo, c. X, 28: PL 182, 991A.

[20] In Ps. 190, serm. XVII, 4: PL 183, 252C.

[21] In Cantica, serm. XXIII, 16: PL 183, 893AB.

[22In Cantica, serm. LII, 3: PL 183, 1031A.

[23De Consid., I, c. 7: PL 182, 737AB. 

[24De imitCh., I, 20, 5.

[25In Cantica, serm. XLI, 6: PL 183, 987B.

[26] De Adventu D., serm. III, 5: PL 183, 45D.

[27Epist. 20 (ad Card. Haimericum): PL 182, 123B. 

[28Epist221, 3: PL 182, 386D-387A.

[29Epist. 147, 1: PL 182, 304C-305A.

[30De Consid., Prolog.: PL 182, 727A; 728AB.

[31De Consid., II c. 8: PL 182, 751CD. 

[32De Consid., III, c. 1: PL 182, 757B. 

[33Epist. 192: PL 182, 358D-359A.

[34De error. Abaelardi, I, 2: PL 182, 1056A. 

[35Epist. 188PL 182, 353AB.

[36De error. Abaelardi, Praef.: PL 182, 1053, 1054D.

[37De moribus et off. Episc., seu Epist. 42, 5,17: PL 182, 821A. 

[38Ibid.

[39Vita Prima, II, 25: PL 185, 283B. 

[40Epist. 37: PL 182, 143B.

[41Epist215PL 182, 379B.

[42Vita Prima, V, 12: PL 185, 358D.

[43In Cantica, serm. LXXI, 5: PL 183, 1123D.

[44] In Cantica, serm. XV, 6: PL 183, 846D, 847AB.

[45In vigil. Nat. Domini, serm. III, 10: PL 183, 100A. 

[46Serm. in Nat. Mariae, 7: PL 183, 441B.

[47Hom. II super «Missus est», 17: PL 183, 70BCD, 71A.


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BENEDETTO XVI

UDIENZA GENERALE
Piazza San Pietro

Mercoledì, 21 ottobre 2009

San Bernardo di Chiaravalle


Cari fratelli e sorelle,

oggi vorrei parlare su san Bernardo di Chiaravalle, chiamato “l’ultimo dei Padri” della Chiesa, perché nel XII secolo, ancora una volta, rinnovò e rese presente la grande teologia dei Padri. Non conosciamo in dettaglio gli anni della sua fanciullezza; sappiamo comunque che egli nacque nel 1090 a Fontaines in Francia, in una famiglia numerosa e discretamente agiata. Giovanetto, si prodigò nello studio delle cosiddette arti liberali – specialmente della grammatica, della retorica e della dialettica – presso la scuola dei Canonici della chiesa di Saint-Vorles, a Châtillon-sur-Seine e maturò lentamente la decisione di entrare nella vita religiosa. Intorno ai vent’anni entrò a Cîteaux, una fondazione monastica nuova, più agile rispetto agli antichi e venerabili monasteri di allora e, al tempo stesso, più rigorosa nella pratica dei consigli evangelici. Qualche anno più tardi, nel 1115, Bernardo venne inviato da santo Stefano Harding, terzo Abate di Cîteaux, a fondare il monastero di Chiaravalle (Clairvaux). Qui il giovane Abate, aveva solo venticinque anni, poté affinare la propria concezione della vita monastica, e impegnarsi nel tradurla in pratica. Guardando alla disciplina di altri monasteri, Bernardo richiamò con decisione la necessità di una vita sobria e misurata, nella mensa come negli indumenti e negli edifici monastici, raccomandando il sostentamento e la cura dei poveri. Intanto la comunità di Chiaravalle diventava sempre più numerosa, e moltiplicava le sue fondazioni.

In quegli stessi anni, prima del 1130, Bernardo avviò una vasta corrispondenza con molte persone, sia importanti che di modeste condizioni sociali. Alle tante Lettere di questo periodo bisogna aggiungere numerosi Sermoni, come anche Sentenze e Trattati. Sempre a questo tempo risale la grande amicizia di Bernardo con Guglielmo, Abate di Saint-Thierry, e con Guglielmo di Champeaux, figure tra le più importanti del XII secolo. Dal 1130 in poi, iniziò a occuparsi di non pochi e gravi questioni della Santa Sede e della Chiesa. Per tale motivo dovette sempre più spesso uscire dal suo monastero, e talvolta fuori dalla Francia. Fondò anche alcuni monasteri femminili, e fu protagonista di un vivace epistolario con Pietro il Venerabile, Abate di Cluny, sul quale ho parlato mercoledì scorso. Diresse soprattutto i suoi scritti polemici contro Abelardo, un grande pensatore che ha iniziato un nuovo modo di fare teologia, introducendo soprattutto il metodo dialettico-filosofico nella costruzione del pensiero teologico. Un altro fronte contro il quale Bernardo ha lottato è stata l’eresia dei Catari, che disprezzavano la materia e il corpo umano, disprezzando, di conseguenza, il Creatore. Egli, invece, si sentì in dovere di prendere le difese degli ebrei, condannando i sempre più diffusi rigurgiti di antisemitismo. Per quest’ultimo aspetto della sua azione apostolica, alcune decine di anni più tardi, Ephraim, rabbino di Bonn, indirizzò a Bernardo un vibrante omaggio. In quel medesimo periodo il santo Abate scrisse le sue opere più famose, come i celeberrimi Sermoni sul Cantico dei Cantici. Negli ultimi anni della sua vita – la sua morte sopravvenne nel 1153 – Bernardo dovette limitare i viaggi, senza peraltro interromperli del tutto. Ne approfittò per rivedere definitivamente il complesso delle Lettere, dei Sermoni e dei Trattati. Merita di essere menzionato un libro abbastanza particolare, che egli terminò proprio in questo periodo, nel 1145, quando un suo allievo, Bernardo Pignatelli, fu eletto Papa col nome di Eugenio III. In questa circostanza, Bernardo, in qualità di Padre spirituale, scrisse a questo suo figlio spirituale il testo De Consideratione, che contiene insegnamenti per poter essere un buon Papa. In questo libro, che rimane una lettura conveniente per i Papi di tutti i tempi, Bernardo non indica soltanto come fare bene il Papa, ma esprime anche una profonda visione del mistero della Chiesa e del mistero di Cristo, che si risolve, alla fine, nella contemplazione del mistero di Dio trino e uno: “Dovrebbe proseguire ancora la ricerca di questo Dio, che non è ancora abbastanza cercato”, scrive il santo Abate “ma forse si può cercare meglio e trovare più facilmente con la preghiera che con la discussione. Mettiamo allora qui termine al libro, ma non alla ricerca” (XIV, 32: PL 182, 808), all’essere in cammino verso Dio.

Vorrei ora soffermarmi solo su due aspetti centrali della ricca dottrina di Bernardo: essi riguardano Gesù Cristo e Maria santissima, sua Madre. La sua sollecitudine per l’intima e vitale partecipazione del cristiano all’amore di Dio in Gesù Cristo non porta orientamenti nuovi nello statuto scientifico della teologia. Ma, in maniera più che mai decisa, l’Abate di Clairvaux configura il teologo al contemplativo e al mistico. Solo Gesù – insiste Bernardo dinanzi ai complessi ragionamenti dialettici del suo tempo – solo Gesù è “miele alla bocca, cantico all’orecchio, giubilo nel cuore (mel in ore, in aure melos, in corde iubilum)”. Viene proprio da qui il titolo, a lui attribuito dalla tradizione, di Doctor mellifluus: la sua lode di Gesù Cristo, infatti, “scorre come il miele”. Nelle estenuanti battaglie tra nominalisti e realisti – due correnti filosofiche dell’epoca - l’Abate di Chiaravalle non si stanca di ripetere che uno solo è il nome che conta, quello di Gesù Nazareno. “Arido è ogni cibo dell’anima”, confessa, “se non è irrorato con questo olio; insipido, se non è condito con questo sale. Quello che scrivi non ha sapore per me, se non vi avrò letto Gesù”. E conclude: “Quando discuti o parli, nulla ha sapore per me, se non vi avrò sentito risuonare il nome di Gesù” (Sermones in Cantica Canticorum XV, 6: PL 183,847). Per Bernardo, infatti, la vera conoscenza di Dio consiste nell’esperienza personale, profonda di Gesù Cristo e del suo amore. E questo, cari fratelli e sorelle, vale per ogni cristiano: la fede è anzitutto incontro personale, intimo con Gesù, è fare esperienza della sua vicinanza, della sua amicizia, del suo amore, e solo così si impara a conoscerlo sempre di più, ad amarlo e seguirlo sempre più. Che questo possa avvenire per ciascuno di noi!

In un altro celebre Sermone nella domenica fra l’ottava dell’Assunzione, il santo Abate descrive in termini appassionati l’intima partecipazione di Maria al sacrificio redentore del Figlio. “O santa Madre, - egli esclama - veramente una spada ha trapassato la tua anima!... A tal punto la violenza del dolore ha trapassato la tua anima, che a ragione noi ti possiamo chiamare più che martire, perché in te la partecipazione alla passione del Figlio superò di molto nell’intensità le sofferenze fisiche del martirio” (14: PL 183,437-438). Bernardo non ha dubbi: “per Mariam ad Iesum”, attraverso Maria siamo condotti a Gesù. Egli attesta con chiarezza la subordinazione di Maria a Gesù, secondo i fondamenti della mariologia tradizionale. Ma il corpo del Sermone documenta anche il posto privilegiato della Vergine nell’economia della salvezza, a seguito della particolarissima partecipazione della Madre (compassio) al sacrificio del Figlio. Non per nulla, un secolo e mezzo dopo la morte di Bernardo, Dante Alighieri, nell’ultimo canto della Divina Commedia, metterà sulle labbra del “Dottore mellifluo” la sublime preghiera a Maria: “Vergine Madre, figlia del tuo Figlio,/umile ed alta più che creatura,/termine fisso d’eterno consiglio, …” (Paradiso 33, vv. 1ss.).

Queste riflessioni, caratteristiche di un innamorato di Gesù e di Maria come san Bernardo, provocano ancor oggi in maniera salutare non solo i teologi, ma tutti i credenti. A volte si pretende di risolvere le questioni fondamentali su Dio, sull’uomo e sul mondo con le sole forze della ragione. San Bernardo, invece, solidamente fondato sulla Bibbia e sui Padri della Chiesa, ci ricorda che senza una profonda fede in Dio, alimentata dalla preghiera e dalla contemplazione, da un intimo rapporto con il Signore, le nostre riflessioni sui misteri divini rischiano di diventare un vano esercizio intellettuale, e perdono la loro credibilità. La teologia rinvia alla “scienza dei santi”, alla loro intuizione dei misteri del Dio vivente, alla loro sapienza, dono dello Spirito Santo, che diventano punto di riferimento del pensiero teologico. Insieme a Bernardo di Chiaravalle, anche noi dobbiamo riconoscere che l’uomo cerca meglio e trova più facilmente Dio “con la preghiera che con la discussione”. Alla fine, la figura più vera del teologo e di ogni evangelizzatore rimane quella dell’apostolo Giovanni, che ha poggiato il suo capo sul cuore del Maestro.

Vorrei concludere queste riflessioni su san Bernardo con le invocazioni a Maria, che leggiamo in una sua bella omelia. “Nei pericoli, nelle angustie, nelle incertezze, - egli dice - pensa a Maria, invoca Maria. Ella non si parta mai dal tuo labbro, non si parta mai dal tuo cuore; e perché tu abbia ad ottenere l'aiuto della sua preghiera, non dimenticare mai l'esempio della sua vita. Se tu la segui, non puoi deviare; se tu la preghi, non puoi disperare; se tu pensi a lei, non puoi sbagliare. Se ella ti sorregge, non cadi; se ella ti protegge, non hai da temere; se ella ti guida, non ti stanchi; se ella ti è propizia, giungerai alla meta...” (Hom. II super «Missus est», 17: PL 183, 70-71).



Saluti:

Chers frères et soeurs,

Je salue cordialement les pèlerins de langue française, particulièrement les jeunes d’Alsace et de Normandie ainsi que les servants de messe des unités pastorales Notre-Dame et Sainte-Claire du canton de Fribourg. Que l’enseignement de saint Bernard vous aide à découvrir toujours plus en Marie la Mère qui protège de toute crainte et qui nous guide vers son divin Fils. Que Dieu vous bénisse !

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I offer a warm welcome to the English-speaking pilgrims present at today’s Audience, especially from the Dioceses of Lismore and Saginaw accompanied by their Bishops, as well as from Holy Cross and Saint Margaret Mary Parish in Edinburgh. I also greet the visitors from the Netherlands, Nigeria, Tanzania, England, Ireland, Norway and Sweden. Upon all of you I invoke God’s blessings of peace, joy and hope!

Liebe Brüder und Schwestern!

Ganz herzlich grüße ich alle Brüder und Schwestern deutscher Sprache, unter ihnen heute besonders die Gruppe aus Paderborn mit Weihbischof König, die Pilger aus Münster mit Weihbischof Janssen und die Schüler der Liebfrauenschule in Vechta. Der heilige Bernhard will uns lehren, eine lebendige Beziehung zu Christus durch das regelmäßige Gebet und durch die Sakramente aufzubauen. Danach sollen wir streben: Schüler des Herrn in der heiligen Wissenschaft der Gotteserkenntnis zu sein. Der Herr geleite euch mit dem Licht seiner Gnade auf allen euren Wegen.

Queridos hermanos y hermanas:

Saludo a los peregrinos de lengua española, en particular a las Hermanas de la Caridad del Cardenal Sancha, acompañadas por el Señor Cardenal Antonio Cañizares Llovera, presentes en Roma para dar gracias a Dios por la reciente beatificación de su Fundador, el Cardenal Ciriaco María Sancha y Hervás, Arzobispo de Toledo y Primado de España; a los fieles de la Diócesis de Netzahualcóyotl, con su Obispo, Monseñor Carlos Garfias Merlos, así como a los demás grupos procedentes de España, México y otros países latinoamericanos. Que las enseñanzas de San Bernardo de Claraval nos ayuden a encontrarnos personalmente con Jesús, experimentando su cercanía, cultivando su amistad e imitándolo cada día más. Muchas gracias.

Amados brasileiros do Rio de Janeiro e demais peregrinos de língua portuguesa, com afecto a todos saúdo e abençôo, desejando que a vossa peregrinação até junto do túmulo dos Apóstolos Pedro e Paulo reforce, em cada um, a sua fé. Esta é, antes de tudo, encontro íntimo e pessoal com Jesus Cristo. Que esta experiência vos leve a conhecê-Lo, amá-Lo e segui-Lo cada vez mais! Ide com Deus!

Saluto in lingua polacca:

Serdeczne pozdrowienie kieruję do Polaków. Drodzy Bracia i Siostry, dobiega końca Synod dla Afryki. Jak wiecie, Kościół na tym kontynencie, choć przeżywa różnorakie trudności, nieustannie się rozwija. Nie tylko krzewi i pogłębia wiarę w Chrystusa, ale także niesie pomoc narodom, które wciąż cierpią z powodu ubóstwa, konfliktów, czy braku dostępu do wiedzy i opieki zdrowotnej. Niech nie zabraknie mu naszego wsparcia duchowego i materialnego! Niech Bóg wam błogosławi!

Traduzione italiana:

Un cordiale saluto rivolgo ai polacchi. Cari fratelli e sorelle, sta per concludersi il Sinodo per l’Africa. Come sapete, la Chiesa in quel continente, malgrado diverse difficoltà, cresce continuamente. Non solo propaga e approfondisce la fede in Cristo, ma anche porta aiuto ai popoli che ancora soffrono a causa della povertà, dei conflitti o della mancanza d’accesso all’istruzione e alla sanità. Non le manchi il nostro sostegno spirituale e materiale! Dio vi benedica!

Saluto in lingua slovacca:

Zo srdca pozdravujem pútnikov zo Slovenska, osobitne z Bratislavy, Sekúl, Báču, Skalice, Blatného a Podbieľa.

Bratia a sestry, v týchto dňoch sme pozvaní viac uvažovať o misijnom poslaní Cirkvi i každého jej člena. Aj vy ste povolaní evanjelizovať to prostredie, v ktorom žijete.

S týmto želaním vás žehnám.

Pochválený buď Ježiš Kristus!

Traduzione italiana:

Saluto di cuore i pellegrini provenienti dalla Slovacchia, particolarmente da Bratislava, Sekuly, Báč, Skalica, Blatné e Podbieľ.

Fratelli e sorelle, in questi giorni siamo invitati a riflettere più intensamente sull’impegno missionario della Chiesa, e di ogni suo membro. Anche voi siete chiamati ad evangelizzare nell’ambiente in cui vivete.

Con questi voti vi benedico.

Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!

Saluto in lingua bulgara:

Поздравявам поклонниците от България, по-специално верните от енория „Дева Мария Фатимска” в Плевен и представителите на Католическа Дейност от диоцеза на София-Пловдив; насърчавам всички навсякъде да свидетелстват смело християнската вяра. Поздравявам сърдечно с добре дошли делегацията на Православния Патриархат от България,  водена от Негово Високопреосвещенство Епископ Тихон и ги моля да занесат моя братски поздрав на Негово Блаженство Патриарх Максим.

Traduzione italiana:

Saluto  i pellegrini provenienti dalla Bulgaria, in particolare i fedeli della parrocchia “Madonna di Fatima” in Pleven e gli esponenti dell’Azione Cattolica della diocesi di Sofia-Plovdiv; tutti incoraggio a rendere ovunque una coraggiosa testimonianza cristiana. Rivolgo un cordiale benvenuto alla delegazione del Patriacato ortodosso di Bulgaria, guidata dal Vescovo Sua Eccellenza Tichon, e chiedo loro di portare il mio fraterno saluto a Sua Beatitudine il Patriarca Maxim.

Saluto in lingua rumena:

Salut cu afecţiune pelerinii veniţi din România.

Iubiţi prieteni, Ziua Misionară Mondială pe care am celebrat-o duminica trecută să fie şi pentru voi o invitaţie la a fi misionari ai Vestei Celei Bune a lui Cristos. Vă binecuvântez din toată inima.

Traduzione italiana:

Saluto con affetto i pellegrini provenienti dalla Romania.

Cari amici, la Giornata Missionaria Mondiale che abbiamo celebrato domenica scorsa sia anche per voi un invito ad essere missionari della Buona Novella di Cristo. Volentieri vi benedico.

Saluto in lingua ungherese:

Isten hozta a magyar zarándokokat, elsősorban azokat, akik Bácsfáról érkeztek.

Szent Péter és Szent Pál apostolok sírjait látogatva erősödjetek meg a hitben, az Anyaszentegyház iránti szeretetben és az életszentségre törekvésben.

Apostoli áldásommal. Dicsértessék a Jézus Krisztus!

Traduzione italiana:

Un benvenuto ai fedeli di lingua ungherese, specialmente a coloro che sono venuti da Rohovce. Visitando le tombe degli apostoli Pietro e Paolo, rinsaldate la vostra fede, l’amore per la Chiesa e la risolutezza per la santità della vita.

Con la Benedizione Apostolica! Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!

* * *

Rivolgo un cordiale saluto ai pellegrini di lingua italiana. In particolare, ai partecipanti al Capitolo Generale dei Missionari Comboniani del Cuore di Gesù e, mentre ringrazio questa Famiglia religiosa per il lavoro missionario che svolge soprattutto in Africa, auspico che essa continui con rinnovato slancio apostolico, a rendere sempre più attuale nel mondo il carisma di San Daniele Comboni. Saluto i Religiosi Servi della Carità – Opera Don Guanella e, nell’imminenza della festa del loro Fondatore, li incoraggio a lavorare nella Chiesa con generosa dedizione. Saluto i cresimati della diocesi di Faenza-Modigliana, con il loro Pastore Mons. Claudio Stagni, i soci del Credito Cooperativo Cassa Rurale ed Artigiana, di Pagliano, qui convenuti con il Vescovo di Palestrina Mons. Domenico Sigalini, come pure i rappresentanti di Rondine-Cittadella della Pace, accompagnati dal nuovo Vescovo di Arezzo Mons. Riccardo Fontana. A tutti auguro di crescere sempre nell’amore di Cristo per testimoniarlo in ogni ambito della società.

Saluto, infine, i giovani, i malati e gli sposi novelli. Cari amici, il mese di ottobre ci invita a rinnovare la nostra attiva cooperazione alla missione della Chiesa. Con le fresche energie della giovinezza, con la forza della preghiera e del sacrificio e con le potenzialità della vita coniugale, sappiate essere missionari del Vangelo, offrendo il vostro concreto sostegno a quanti faticano dedicando la loro intera esistenza alla evangelizzazione dei popoli.


© Copyright 2009 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


SOURCE : http://www.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/it/audiences/2009/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20091021.html



BENEDETTO XVI

UDIENZA GENERALE
Piazza San Pietro

Mercoledì, 4 novembre 2009
 

Due modelli teoligici a confronto: Bernardo e Abelardo


Cari fratelli e sorelle,

nell’ultima catechesi ho presentato le caratteristiche principali della teologia monastica e della teologia scolastica del XII secolo, che potremmo chiamare, in un certo senso, rispettivamente “teologia del cuore” e “teologia della ragione”. Tra i rappresentanti dell’una e dell’altra corrente teologica si è sviluppato un dibattito ampio e a volte acceso, simbolicamente rappresentato dalla controversia tra san Bernardo di Chiaravalle ed Abelardo.

Per comprendere questo confronto tra i due grandi maestri, è bene ricordare che la teologia è la ricerca di una comprensione razionale, per quanto è possibile, dei misteri della Rivelazione cristiana, creduti per fede: fides quaerens intellectum – la fede cerca l’intellegibilità – per usare una definizione tradizionale, concisa ed efficace. Ora, mentre san Bernardo, tipico rappresentante della teologia monastica, mette l’accento sulla prima parte della definizione, cioè sulla fides - la fede, Abelardo, che è uno scolastico, insiste sulla seconda parte, cioè sull’intellectus, sulla comprensione per mezzo della ragione. Per Bernardo la fede stessa è dotata di un’intima certezza, fondata sulla testimonianza della Scrittura e sull’insegnamento dei Padri della Chiesa. La fede inoltre viene rafforzata dalla testimonianza dei santi e dall’ispirazione dello Spirito Santo nell’anima dei singoli credenti. Nei casi di dubbio e di ambiguità, la fede viene protetta e illuminata dall’esercizio del Magistero ecclesiale. Così Bernardo fa fatica ad accordarsi con Abelardo, e più in generale con coloro che sottoponevano le verità della fede all’esame critico della ragione; un esame che comportava, a suo avviso, un grave pericolo, e cioè l’intellettualismo, la relativizzazione della verità, la messa in discussione delle stesse verità della fede. In tale modo di procedere Bernardo vedeva un’audacia spinta fino alla spregiudicatezza, frutto dell’orgoglio dell’intelligenza umana, che pretende di “catturare” il mistero di Dio. In una sua lettera, addolorato, scrive così: “L’ingegno umano si impadronisce di tutto, non lasciando più nulla alla fede. Affronta ciò che è al di sopra di sé, scruta ciò che gli è superiore, irrompe nel mondo di Dio, altera i misteri della fede, più che illuminarli; ciò che è chiuso e sigillato non lo apre, ma lo sradica, e ciò che non trova percorribile per sé, lo considera nulla, e rifiuta di credervi” (Epistola CLXXXVIII,1: PL 182, I, 353).

Per Bernardo la teologia ha un unico scopo: quello di promuovere l’esperienza viva e intima di Dio. La teologia è allora un aiuto per amare sempre di più e sempre meglio il Signore, come recita il titolo del trattato sul Dovere di amare Dio (De diligendo Deo). In questo cammino, ci sono diversi gradi, che Bernardo descrive approfonditamente, fino al culmine quando l’anima del credente si inebria nei vertici dell’amore. L’anima umana può raggiungere già sulla terra questa unione mistica con il Verbo divino, unione che il Doctor Mellifluus descrive come “nozze spirituali”. Il Verbo divino la visita, elimina le ultime resistenze, l’illumina, l’infiamma e la trasforma. In tale unione mistica, essa gode di una grande serenità e dolcezza, e canta al suo Sposo un inno di letizia. Come ho ricordato nella catechesi dedicata alla vita e alla dottrina di san Bernardo, la teologia per lui non può che nutrirsi della preghiera contemplativa, in altri termini dell’unione affettiva del cuore e della mente con Dio.

Abelardo, che tra l’altro è proprio colui che ha introdotto il termine “teologia” nel senso in cui lo intendiamo oggi, si pone invece in una prospettiva diversa. Nato in Bretagna, in Francia, questo famoso maestro del XII secolo era dotato di un’intelligenza vivissima e la sua vocazione era lo studio. Si occupò dapprima di filosofia e poi applicò i risultati raggiunti in questa disciplina alla teologia, di cui fu maestro nella città più colta dell’epoca, Parigi, e successivamente nei monasteri in cui visse. Era un oratore brillante: le sue lezioni venivano seguite da vere e proprie folle di studenti. Spirito religioso, ma personalità inquieta, la sua esistenza fu ricca di colpi di scena: contestò i suoi maestri, ebbe un figlio da una donna colta e intelligente, Eloisa. Si pose spesso in polemica con i suoi colleghi teologi, subì anche condanne ecclesiastiche, pur morendo in piena comunione con la Chiesa, alla cui autorità si sottomise con spirito di fede. Proprio san Bernardo contribuì alla condanna di alcune dottrine di Abelardo nel sinodo provinciale di Sens del 1140, e sollecitò anche l’intervento del Papa Innocenzo II. L’abate di Chiaravalle contestava, come abbiamo ricordato, il metodo troppo intellettualistico di Abelardo, che, ai suoi occhi, riduceva la fede a una semplice opinione sganciata dalla verità rivelata. Quelli di Bernardo non erano timori infondati ed erano condivisi, del resto, anche da altri grandi pensatori del tempo. Effettivamente, un uso eccessivo della filosofia rese pericolosamente fragile la dottrina trinitaria di Abelardo, e così la sua idea di Dio. In campo morale il suo insegnamento non era privo di ambiguità: egli insisteva nel considerare l’intenzione del soggetto come l’unica fonte per descrivere la bontà o la malizia degli atti morali, trascurando così l’oggettivo significato e valore morale delle azioni: un soggettivismo pericoloso. È questo – come sappiamo - un aspetto molto attuale per la nostra epoca, nella quale la cultura appare spesso segnata da una crescente tendenza al relativismo etico: solo l’io decide cosa sia buono per me, in questo momento. Non bisogna dimenticare, comunque, anche i grandi meriti di Abelardo, che ebbe molti discepoli e contribuì decisamente allo sviluppo della teologia scolastica, destinata a esprimersi in modo più maturo e fecondo nel secolo successivo. Né vanno sottovalutate alcune sue intuizioni, come, ad esempio, quando afferma che nelle tradizioni religiose non cristiane c’è già una preparazione all’accoglienza di Cristo, Verbo divino.

Che cosa possiamo imparare, noi oggi, dal confronto, dai toni spesso accesi, tra Bernardo e Abelardo, e, in genere, tra la teologia monastica e quella scolastica? Anzitutto credo che esso mostri l’utilità e la necessità di una sana discussione teologica nella Chiesa, soprattutto quando le questioni dibattute non sono state definite dal Magistero, il quale rimane, comunque, un punto di riferimento ineludibile. San Bernardo, ma anche lo stesso Abelardo, ne riconobbero sempre senza esitazione l’autorità. Inoltre, le condanne che quest’ultimo subì ci ricordano che in campo teologico deve esserci un equilibrio tra quelli che possiamo chiamare i principi architettonici datici dalla Rivelazione e che conservano perciò sempre la prioritaria importanza, e quelli interpretativi suggeriti dalla filosofia, cioè dalla ragione, e che hanno una funzione importante ma solo strumentale. Quando tale equilibrio tra l’architettura e gli strumenti di interpretazione viene meno, la riflessione teologica rischia di essere viziata da errori, ed è allora al Magistero che spetta l’esercizio di quel necessario servizio alla verità che gli è proprio. Inoltre, occorre mettere in evidenza che, tra le motivazioni che indussero Bernardo a “schierarsi” contro Abelardo e a sollecitare l’intervento del Magistero, vi fu anche la preoccupazione di salvaguardare i credenti semplici ed umili, i quali vanno difesi quando rischiano di essere confusi o sviati da opinioni troppo personali e da argomentazioni teologiche spregiudicate, che potrebbero mettere a repentaglio la loro fede.

Vorrei ricordare, infine, che il confronto teologico tra Bernardo e Abelardo si concluse con una piena riconciliazione tra i due, grazie alla mediazione di un amico comune, l’abate di Cluny, Pietro il Venerabile, del quale ho parlato in una delle catechesi precedenti. Abelardo mostrò umiltà nel riconoscere i suoi errori, Bernardo usò grande benevolenza. In entrambi prevalse ciò che deve veramente stare a cuore quando nasce una controversia teologica, e cioè salvaguardare la fede della Chiesa e far trionfare la verità nella carità. Che questa sia anche oggi l’attitudine con cui ci si confronta nella Chiesa, avendo sempre come meta la ricerca della verità.



Saluti:

Chers frères et soeurs,

Je suis heureux de saluer les pèlerins de langue française, venant notamment de France, de Suisse et de Belgique. Que votre pèlerinage à Rome soit une occasion pour approfondir votre foi afin de donner une place centrale à la personne du Christ dans votre vie. Avec ma Bénédiction apostolique!

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I am pleased to welcome the English-speaking pilgrims present at today’s Audience. I particularly greet priests from the dioceses of England and Wales celebrating Jubilees, pilgrims from the Diocese of Wichita, students and teachers from Catholic schools in Denmark, and Catholic nurses from the United States. God’s blessings upon you all!

Liebe Brüder und Schwestern!

Ganz herzlich grüße ich alle deutschsprachigen Pilger und Besucher und heiße heute besonders die Gruppe der Auerbacher Schulschwestern willkommen. Bitten wir Gott um die Gnade, am offenbarten Glauben und an der Gemeinschaft der Kirche festzuhalten und uns jederzeit mit Herz und Verstand in den Dienst der Wahrheit und der Liebe zu stellen. Der Herr begleite euch alle mit seinem Segen.

Queridos hermanos y hermanas: 

Saludo a los peregrinos de lengua española, en particular, a los miembros de la Hermandad de Labradores “Paso Azul”, de Lorca, a los fieles de distintas diócesis de Guatemala, a la delegación de la Escuela de Investigaciones Policiales de Chile, así como a los demás grupos procedentes de España, México y otros países latinoamericanos. Que en vuestra vida salvaguardéis siempre la fe de la Iglesia y hagáis triunfar la verdad en la caridad. Muchas gracias.

Queridos irmãos e irmãs,

Uma cordial saudação aos peregrinos vindos de Coimbra e de São Paulo, ao grupo de Focolarinos do Brasil, aos fiéis cristãos da Catedral Nossa Senhora da Conceição em Bragança Paulista com seu Bispo Dom José Maria Pinheiro, e à tripulação do Navio-Escola «Brasil» com o seu comandante, que aqui vieram movidos pelo desejo de afirmar e consolidar sua fé e adesão a Cristo, o Senhor dos Navegantes: Ele vos encha de alegria e o seu Espírito ilumine todas as decisões da vossa vida para realizardes fielmente o projeto de Deus a vosso respeito. Acompanha-vos a minha oração e Bênção.

Saluto in lingua polacca:

Witam polskich pielgrzymów. W dniu świętego Karola Boromeusza wspominamy mojego poprzednika, Sługę Bożego Jana Pawła II. Niech przykład jego życia i nauczanie umacniają nas w wierze i inspirują na drodze do świętości. Niech Bóg wam błogosławi!

Traduzione italiana: 

Saluto i pellegrini polacchi. Nel giorno di San Carlo Borromeo ricordiamo il mio predecessore, il Servo di Dio Giovanni Paolo II. L’esempio della sua vita e il suo insegnamento ci confermino nella fede e ci ispirino sulla via della santità. Dio vi benedica!

Saluto in lingua croata:

Srdačno pozdravljam sve hrvatske hodočasnike, a posebno članove Mješovitog zbora župe svetih Euzebija i Poliona iz Vinkovaca! Svakodnevni susret s Gospodinom u molitvi i pjesmi, neka vam srca ispuni radošću i nadom kako bi oduševljeno svjedočili svoju vjeru i naviještali silna Božja djela! Hvaljen Isus i Marija!

Traduzione italiana:

Di cuore saluto i pellegrini croati, particolarmente i membri del coro della parrocchia dei SS. Eusebio e Polione, di Vinkovci! L’incontro quotidiano con il Signore nella preghiera e nel canto, riempia  i vostri cuori di gioia e di speranza, affinché con entusiasmo possiate testimoniare la fede e proclamare le grandi opere di Dio. Siano lodati Gesù e Maria!

* * *

Nel salutare i pellegrini italiani, rivolgo un cordiale benvenuto alle Religiose di diverse Congregazioni che partecipano al corso promosso dall’USMI, ed auspico che esso susciti in tutte un rinnovato impegno a testimoniare la presenza e l’amore di Dio. Saluto le Suore di Santa Dorotea di santa Paola Frassinetti, che celebrano il Capitolo Generale e assicuro la mia preghiera affinchè l’importante evento sia per l’Istituto momento di riflessione e di rilancio nell’azione spirituale e missionaria. Saluto con affetto il Cardinale Salvatore De Giorgi, che accompagna il nutrito gruppo di genitori e amici del Movimento “Ragazzi in cielo” e, nel ricordo sempre vivo di quanti sono prematuramente scomparsi per incidenti o malattie, incoraggio tutti, specialmente i genitori a coltivare la speranza nella vita eterna fondata nella morte e risurrezione di Cristo. Molti di questi “Ragazzi in cielo” facevano parte della Federazione Italiana Esercizi Spirituali. Rivolgo ora un pensiero speciale alla Comunità Papa Giovanni XXIII, fondata dal compianto don Oreste Benzi, morto due anni or sono. Cari amici, la feconda eredità spirituale di questo benemerito sacerdote sia per voi stimolo a far fruttificare nella Chiesa e per il mondo la provvidenziale opera da lui iniziata a favore degli ultimi della nostra società. Vi accompagno volentieri con la preghiera.

Saluto infine, i giovani, i malati e gli sposi novelli. Ricorre oggi la memoria liturgica di San Carlo Borromeo, Vescovo insigne della Diocesi di Milano, che, animato da ardente amore per Cristo, fu instancabile maestro e guida dei fratelli. Il suo esempio aiuti voi, cari giovani, a lasciarvi condurre da Cristo nelle vostre scelte quotidiane; incoraggi voi, cari ammalati, ad offrire la vostra sofferenza per i Pastori della Chiesa e per la salvezza delle anime; sostenga voi, cari sposi novelli, a fondare la vostra famiglia sui valori evangelici.

© Copyright 2009 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

Sculpture de en:Bernard of Clairvaux, Chiesa di San Stefano (dedicated to St. Stephen the Protomartyr), Canzo (Italy)


BERNARDO di Chiaravalle, santo

di Filippo Millosevich - Enciclopedia Italiana (1930)

BERNARDO di Chiaravalle, santo. - Nacque a Fontaines-lès-Dijon a pochi chilometri dalla capitale della Borgogna, probabilmente nel 1091, da genitori appartenenti all'alta nobiltà. Nel 1111 manifestò i primi segni della vocazione per la vita monastica: l'anno seguente fu ammesso, insieme con i fratelli ed alcuni amici, nel monastero di Cistercium (Cîteaux), origine dell'ordine cisterciense, sorto poco prima con lo scopo preciso di attuare rigidamente la regola di S. Benedetto. L'entrata di B. nel monastero segnò per questo l'inizio di un'era di prosperità: il giovane monaco venne incaricato nel 1115 di fondare, sulla riva sinistra dell'Aube nella Sciampagna, una nuova colonia religiosa che diede origine all'abbazia di Chiaravalle, da cui egli doveva prendere il nome. Per dieci anni circa, B. si occupò esclusivamente del suo ordine, che papa Callisto II riconobbe ufficialmente nel 1119; ne difese l'austerità contro le critiche dei Cluniacensi, e contribuì a migliorare la vita monastica degli altri ordini. Nelle relazioni con il feudatario, il conte Teobaldo di Sciampagna nei cui dominî si trovavano le terre del suo ordine, e in genere con la nobiltà del tempo, dimostrò sempre una prudente fermezza, che spesso gli permise d'intervenire in favore dei deboli oppressi.

Nel 1126 cominciò ad estendere la sua attività in tutti i campi della vita ecclesiastica, con la lettera De moribus et officio episcoporum indirizzata all'arcivescovo di Sens in cui prospetta chiaramente quali siano i doveri dei vescovi anche di fronte alle autorità laiche. Due anni dopo, in occasione del concilio di Troyes, che diede ai Templari la regola benedettina adattata alle esigenze della vita militare, cominciò a comporre il celebre trattato De laude novae militiae, molto importante soprattutto per la giustificazione teorica che egli fa della santità della guerra combattuta dal mondo cristiano contro gl'infedeli.

Nel concilio di Étampes del 1130, in cui si discusse quale dei due pontefici eletti contemporaneamente in Roma fosse legittimo, Innocenzo II o Anacleto II, l'intervento di Bernardo fu decisivo a favore del primo: e siccome molte città dell'alta Italia e i Normanni parteggiavano per l'antipapa, l'abate di Chiaravalle intraprese tre viaggi in Italia a servizio di Innocenzo, spesso trascinando le turbe col suo eloquente entusiasmo. I suoi successi personali ebbero per contraccolpo un grande sviluppo dei monasteri cisterciensi nella penisola.

Nel 1140 venne invitato dal vescovo di Parigi a predicare agli scolari: il sermone da lui tenuto in questa occasione, De conversione ad clericos sermo seu libellus, è una critica serrata della superba scienza dei professori e un'invettiva incalzante contro i corrotti costumi degli studenti. Nello stesso anno, egli otteneva nel concilio di Sens la condanna di Abelardo (v.). Inesorabile nella difesa dei principî teorici e morali della religione, si mostrò invece relativamente mite nel modo di reprimere le sette ereticali degli apostolici e dei petrobrusiani, che minacciavano la Francia in quegli anni: la sua tolleranza religiosa ebbe poi particolare occasione di manifestarsi verso gli ebrei.

Pur riconoscendo la necessità d'un rinnovamento interiore della società ecclesiastica, B. riteneva inalienabili i diritti politici della Chiesa e i suoi beni da parte del laicato, e quindi combatté fieramente contro Arnaldo da Brescia (v.) e la rivoluzione romana del 1144. Grande influenza in questo senso esercitò sul papa Eugenio III, suo antico discepolo, cui dedicò i cinque libri De consideratione, che si potrebbero definire "il manuale del perfetto pontefice". L'ultima più grande manifestazione dell'attività dell'abate di Chiaravalle fu la predicazione della seconda crociata negli anni 1146-47. Città e castelli si spopolarono sotto l'influenza della sua infiammata parola. Tanto più dolorosamente colpito egli rimase per il totale insuccesso della spedizione: e l'amarezza del disinganno lo accompagnò sino alla tomba (v. crociate).

S. Bernardo morì a Chiaravalle il 20 agosto 1153, lasciando ben 350 monasteri del suo ordine sparsi per l'Europa. Alessandro III lo canonizzò nel 1174 e la sua festa si celebra il 20 agosto.

Nel rinnovamento intellettuale del sec. XII, S. Bernardo rappresenta, insieme con Ugo e Riccardo di S. Vittore, essenzialmente il misticismo ascetico, caratteristico della religiosità del Medioevo. Egli non è un teologo nel senso tecnico della parola: fu piuttosto un magnifico esaltatore dei valori tradizionali della Chiesa, per cui combatté tutti coloro che ne minacciavano le basi dogmatiche, e un grande oratore sacro. La sua eloquenza, infatti, gli valse il titolo di doctor mellifluus. La sua produzione più notevole è costituita dai suoi Sermoni: quelli di commento al Cantico dei Cantici e le omelie in onore della Vergine. Opere teologiche vere e proprie sono il De diligendo Deo, il De baptismo, il De gratia et libero arbitrio; la più importante è il De gradibus humilitatis et superbiae.

L'apologetica di S. Bernardo è tutta basata su motivi psicologici: la scienza non è per lui che un mezzo di rigenerazione spirituale. Certo egli apprezza coloro che si dedicano allo studio della filosofia e cercano di arrivare, attraverso l'esame dei dati sensibili e le discussioni dialettiche, alla conoscenza delle realtà intelligibili; ma di gran lunga preferisce quelli cui è dato di saltare a piè pari la faticosa ascensione e giungere subito alla meta. Ma se scopo della vita è l'amore di Dio, non bisogna credere sia facile il possederlo: solo che qui il tirocinio è del tutto etico e non speculativo. Vi si giunge attraverso i dodici gradi dell'umiltà, che sono indicati dalla regola di S. Benedetto; giunto ad un'idea esatta dell'umana miseria, il santo è in grado di comprendere la lezione di umiltà e di amore che gli ha data Cristo. Contro Abelardo, egli sostiene, seguendo S. Agostino e S. Anselmo, che la redenzione era necessaria, perché l'uomo era incapace di soddisfare da sé alla divina giustizia. Attraverso i sacramenti e specialmente l'Eucarestia, la grazia discende nelle anime dei fedeli e, in un certo senso, li rende simili al Cristo. Ma il nostro libero arbitrio sussiste anche dopo la caduta: soltanto che la nostra è solo una potestà di volere, ma non di volere il bene. Il nostro merito, dopo la redenzione, sta nell'acconsentire all'azione della grazia. Una volta liberati dal peccato, possiamo aspirare all'unione mistica con l'Uomo-Dio, di sopra ad ogni considerazione teologica: unione progressiva che va dall'oggetto sensibile, l'umanità del Cristo, al Verbo stesso, fonte dell'amore.

Spirito pratico di grande organizzatore di masse, l'abate di Chiaravalle ha lasciato un ricchissimo epistolario, fonte principale per lo studio della sua vita e da cui possiamo dedurre il suo pensiero politico, che poi ha trovato una sistemazione nel trattato De consideratione. Egli è stato il primo a parlare esplicitamente del celebre simbolo delle due spade, di cui una, la spirituale, è tutta della Chiesa; l'altra, la temporale, solo in teoria dipendente da essa, deve essere adoperata dai poteri mondani. Assertore quindi teorico della teocrazia pontificia, vorrebbe il papa puro da contatti materiali, pur senza indicare mai esplicitamente come ciò possa avvenire. Venuto dopo la lotta per le investiture, avverte il bisogno che hanno Papato e Impero di riaccostarsi e di sorreggersi a vicenda di fronte alle nuove forze popolari in ascensione. Di qui la sua ostilità per Arnaldo da Brescia. Reazionario in fondo, rispetto alla teocrazia rivoluzionaria di Gregorio VII, vagheggia un ritorno a quel periodo aureo del Medioevo cristiano, quando la mano di Leone III poneva la corona di Augusto sulla testa di Carlo Magno. Ma si può osservare che, come la sua opposizione teologica ad Abelardo e a Gilberto della Porretta (da lui fatto condannare nel concilio di Reims del 1148) servirà ad incanalare, in ultima analisi, la nuova filosofia nei ranghi del cattolicismo e permetterà nel secolo seguente la grande sintesi tomistica, così l'avere arginato le prime esuberanze dei comuni renderà alla Chiesa possibile lo stringere con essi utili legami al tempo della Lega Lombarda.

Di capitale importanza è stata poi la concezione che S. Bernardo ebbe della crociata. Al tempo di Pietro l'Eremita, essa si era esaurita in un movimento popolare: all'abate di Chiaravalle invece, essa appariva come la realizzazione dell'unità morale della cristianità, attraverso la cooperazione militare dei singoli stati. Si sente qui quasi uno sforzo per spiritualizzare la politica internazionale, un tentativo unitario nella vita dell'Europa.

La grande figura morale di S. Bernardo rimase profondamente impressa nella tradizione ecclesiastica del suo paese, e il Bossuet ne scrisse un magnifico panegirico. Fu arbitro nelle contese che sorgevano tra gli stessi principi reali francesi, e vagheggiatore di pacifici rapporti tra i poteri civili e religiosi.

L'edizione completa delle opere di S. Bernardo, in Migne, Patrologia Lat., CLXXXII-CLXXXV, in base alla vecchia edizione del Mabillon. Delle quattro Vitae Bernardi ivi raccolte, solo la Prima e la Secunda sono vere e proprie vite: la terza è un insieme di documenti frammentarî, la quarta è spuria secondo la critica più recente. I manoscritti principali per l'epistolario sono il 18118 e il 17463 della Biblioteca Nazionale di Parigi, il 242 di Grenoble, l'852 di Troyes, il 154 di Digione. Per le vite di Bernardo, il 7561 di Parigi, quello dei Padri della casa di S. Bernardo a Fontaines-lès-Dijon. Per i Sermoni il 12323 di Parigi ecc.; un'enumerazione completa dei manoscritti si