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

painting of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, the church of Heiligenkreuz Abbey near Baden bei Wien, Lower Austria, by Georg Andreas WasshuberBernard 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