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St. Bernard of Clairvaux

Doctor of the Church and called "The Last of the Fathers", St. Bernard of Clairvaux was born in 1090 near Dijon, France, the son of Tescelin Sorrel and Aleth of Montbard. His mother died when he was nineteen, and he fell into a somewhat riotous way of life for several years. But he reformed and with a large number of his friends entered the monastery of Citeaux to serve under St. Stephen Harding. Bernard soon was sent to found a new monastery at Clairvaux, where he served as abbot and which he made famous throughout Europe. He died there in 1153.

In his early years as abbot the austerity he imposed alienated his monks and undermined his own health. But the house soon flourished, nearly 70 Cistercian Monasteries were founded during his life time, and his work in settling monks across the Continent earned him the title of second founder of the order after St. Stephen Harding.

Bernard became widely known as a preacher, peacemaker and polimicist. He strenuously defended the right of Pope Innocent II against the claims of Antipope Anacletus in 1130, refuted Paper Albelard's extreme views on the realm of reason at the Council of Sens in 1140, and wrote De Consideratione ("On Consideration"), a treatise for the guidance of Pope Augenious III, who had been a monk at Clairvaux, on his election in 1145.

Bernard preached widely against the powerful Albigensian heresy then sweeping over southern France. He was less successful in 1146 when he preached a crusade against the Saracens, but the fault lay in the lack of Military leadership and the decline of dedication within the army which he had helped raise.

Bernard wrote hymns, a life of St. Malachy, and a widely popular treatise, De Deligendo Deo, ("On Loving God"). His sermons also were influential; the effect of his writing on the development of medieval mysticism was especially great. He was canonized in 1174 and declared a doctor of the Church in 1830.


The Feast of St. Bernard is celebrated on August 20.

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