The feast day of St. Bernard of Clairvaux is celebrated on August 20. He was born in a family castle in Dijon, Burgundy in 1090. The family included six sons and one daughter. He was raised by a pious French mother. Bernard was also pious as a child, however the death of his mother caused a prolonged depression.
St. Bernard was drawn towards the Benedictine monastery at Citeaux. One day, at the age of 19, he knelt and asked God for guidance. All doubts vanished and he decided to follow the Cistercian way of life. Bernard was so persuasive that 31 nobles, including his five brothers and two uncles, were convinced to follow him to Citeaux.
When they arrived at the monastery , Stephen Harding was the abbot and they were instructed,
“If you desire to live in this house, leave your body behind; only spirits live here.”
After living a year at the monastery, he made his profession and continued living a cloistered life away from the world.
The monks lived a very simple life. The land was poor and they ate barley bread, herbs and some vegetables. The number of monks grew to 130. Eventually the monastery became known as Clairvzux.
St. Bernard suffered stomach problems but never complained. At one point he was near death because he became so ill. He was ordered to live apart from the community to recover his strength. He lived on a special diet under a doctor’s care and returned to the monastery with improved health.
St. Bernard received the gift of miracles. The first witnessed miracle happened while singing at Mass. He restored the speech to a relative named Josbert de la Forte who was near death. Many miracles were witnessed where Bernard healed the sick by making a sign of the cross over a person and praying.
Because his health was frail, he was directed to preach and write rather than work in the field. He was an eloquent preacher. He fought for reform in the church clergy. St. Bernard became well known as an arbitrator and counselor. He settled many disputes including intervening during a church schism.
St. Bernard preached during the Second Crusade throughout Europe. When the Crusade failed, St. Bernard attributed the failure to the sins of the Crusaders.
St. Bernard was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1830.
Remember, O most loving Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection, implored your help, or sought your intercession was left unaided. Inspired by this confidence, we fly unto you, O virgin of virgins, our mother. To you we come, before you we stand, sinful and sorrowful.
O mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not our petitions, but in your mercy, hear and answer me.
Prayer of St. Bernard of Clairvaux
August is the Month of the Immaculate Heart of Mary