Saint Brigid Religious Education
100 Mayflower Street
West Hartford, CT 06110
Bernard of Clairvaux
Feast day: August 20
Bernard was a French churchman, a mystic, and a Doctor of the Church.
He was born of a noble family. In 1112 he entered the Cistercian abbey
of Cîteaux, taking along 4 or 5 brothers and some 25 friends. In 1115 he
headed the group sent to found a house at Clairvaux. There he remained
abbot all his life, despite many efforts to elevate him to higher
A holy life, a reputation for miraculous cures, and unusual eloquence
made Bernard renowned, and he became the most powerful religious
influence in France and, in time, in all Western Europe. His example and
mystical theology had decisive influence on the Cistercian order, and he
is sometimes called its second founder. During his lifetime 68 houses
were founded out of Clairvaux alone.
It was he who led the long struggle to seat Innocent II, the
canonically elected pope, and persuaded Lombardy to accept Emperor
Lothair II. He procured the condemnation of Peter Abelard and Arnold of
Brescia (1140), and he preached the Second Crusade (1146). He was the
adviser of popes, especially of his friend Eugene III.
He was tireless in journeys to make peace, and he undertook many
arduous charitable missions. He stopped a wave of pogroms in the
Rhineland (1146) and he repeatedly saved luckless peasants from the
powerful. Through his writings, St. Bernard exerted a profound influence
on Roman Catholic spirituality. His deep devotion to the Virgin Mary and
to the Infant Jesus is evident in his work, which consists of about 330
sermons, some 500 known letters, and 13 treatises.
His style, strong and eloquent, full of biblical allusions, and
intensely personal and direct, has earned him the name Mellifluous
Doctor. Among his sermons, the series of 86 on the Canticles have been
favorites (St. Bernard on the Song of Songs, tr. 1952). The most
important treatises are On the Steps of Humility and Pride (c.1125; tr.
by Geoffrey Webb and Adrian Walker, 1957), On Consideration (1149–53;
tr. by E. Kennan, 1989), and On the Love of God (c.1127; tr. by T. L.
Connolly, 1951). He was canonized in 1174.