Novena to St. Bernard

1. Admirable St. Bernard, who, after having been the delight of your parents by the innocence of your manners, became the model of Religious by the austerity of your penances and the fervor of your piety; and who had also the happiness of drawing with you, to a life of holiness, your whole family and an infinite number of distinguished persons: obtain for us, of the Lord, the grace that we may correspond to the divine inspirations, and live up to the perfection of our state.

Glory be, etc.

2. Admirable St. Bernard, who, advancing in sanctity as you progressed in learning, practiced the most severe mortification of your senses, and conceived the deepest hatred for every kind of sin: obtain for us, of the Lord, the grace, by the practice of penance, always to mortify our unruly passions.

Glory be, etc.

3. Admirable St. Bernard, who, after founding many monasteries, and filling them with fervent and holy monks effected the greatest good by your counsel and advice; so that not only kings and princes, but bishops and popes applied to you to heal public discords and distresses: obtain for us, of the Lord, the grace to labor continually for His glory, and to walk so faithfully in the way of His precepts, that we may at all times merit His aid.

Glory be, etc.

4. Admirable St. Bernard, who, passing like an apostle through all the kingdoms of the West, carried to all peace and joy, deciding the most difficult questions, concluding the most complicated affairs, assisting at counsels, confuting errors, converting the most hardened sinners: obtain for us, of the Lord, the grace, that by our lives we may shed the odor of Jesus around, and have, like you, a lively faith and an ardent love for the Most Holy Eucharist, the greatest and the most precious treasure of Christianity.

Glory be, etc.

5. Admirable St. Bernard, who, notwithstanding your numberless occupations, your continual journeys, and your delicate health, never ceased your meditations, your prayers, and your penances; who, not content to announce the word of God by your voice, also composed most valuable works, for which you have merited the glorious titles of Doctor and Father of the Church; and who, by your beautiful writings for her glory, promoted devotion to Mary: obtain for us, of the Lord, the grace of perseverance till death, in all the practices of piety and penance suitable to our state, and always to breathe the most fervent devotion to our Mother Mary.

Glory be, etc.

Litany of St. Bernard

Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.
God the Father of heaven, have mercy on us.
God the Son, have mercy on us.
God the Holy ghost, have mercy on us.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us.*
Queen, conceived without sin,*
St. Bernard,*
St. Bernard, who, in giving thyself to God, drew many souls to him,*
St. Bernard, prodigy of the eleventh age,*
St. Bernard, ornament of the clergy,*
St. Bernard, terror of heretics,*
St. Bernard, oracle of the Church,*
St. Bernard, light of bishops,*
St. Bernard, most humble,*
St. Bernard, burning with zeal for the glory of God,*
St. Bernard, most ardent for the honor of Mary,*
St. Bernard, most beloved son of the queen of angels,*
St. Bernard, most pure in body and mind,*
St. Bernard, perfect model of poverty and mortification,*
St. Bernard, most ardent in charity to all,*
St. Bernard, who feared God and not earthly powers,*
St. Bernard, whose whole exterior breathed holiness,*
St. Bernard, whose very look spoke of God,*
St. Bernard, flower of religious,*
St. Bernard, who never lost sight of the presence of God,*
St. Bernard, angel of Claravallis,*
St. Bernard, always absorbed in God,*

Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
Spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
Graciously hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world,
Have mercy on us.

Let us pray:

O great saint! who, from the very dawn of life, turned all the powers of thy soul, and the noble affections of thy pure and loving heart, towards thy creator; angel clothed in mortal flesh, who appeared in this valley of tears as a bright lily of purity, to shed around thee the good odor of Christ, to show to all the beauty of virtue, and to point out to thousands the way to heaven--O pray for us, that, truly despising all terrene objects, we may live to God alone. Amen


O Mary Refuge of Sinners

Take not your eyes from the light of this star if you would not be overwhelmed by the waves; if the storms of temptation arise, if you are thrown upon the rocks of affliction, look to the star, invoke Mary. Are you confounded at the enormity of your sins, are you ashamed at the defilement of your conscience, are you terrified on account of the dreadful judgment, so that you begin to be overpowered by sadness, or even to sink into the abyss of despair, then turn your thoughts to Mary. In dangers, in distress, in doubt, call on Mary. She will not be far from your mouth, or your heart; and that you may obtain her intercession omit not to imitate her conduct. When you follow her, you will not go astray; when you invoke her, you will no longer be in doubt; when she supports you, you will not fall; when she leads you, you will surely come to eternal life, and will find by your own experience that she is justly called Maria--that is, Star of the Sea."

(St. Bernard)

A Devout Prayer of Saint Bernard To the Blessed Virgin.

Remember, Mary, that it was never heard of, that a sinner had fled to thy protection, and had been abandoned by thee. O Mother of God, thou prayest for all; pray, then, for me, who am the greatest of sinners, and therefore have the greatest need of thy intercession.

"Help me, Mary! Mary, help me!"

O Mother of mercy, I acknowledge, with confusion, that it is my sins which, in nailing thy well- beloved Son to the cross, have transpierced thy soul with sorrow. Yet deign, O refuge of sinners! to obtain my pardon, and permit me to adore, in thy maternal arms, my crucified God and Redeemer. Obtain also for me, I conjure thee, so to contemplate in His sacred wounds, His infinite love and the malice of sin, that by sincere contrition and the exercise of penitential works, I may deserve the application of His merits; and having cleansed my soul in His sacred blood from every stain, I may never offend Him more.

(Indulgence of 3 years.)


Hymn: Jesu dulcis memoria
(by St. Bernard)

This hymn of surpassing sweetness, has been universally accorded
a place among the greatest hymns of the Church.

Jesu, the very thought of Thee
With sweetness fills my breast;
But sweeter far Thy face to see,
And in Thy presence rest.

Jesu, dulcis memoria,
Dans vera cordis gaudia:
Sed super mel et omnia,
Ejus dulcis praesentia.

Nor voice can sing, nor heart can frame,
Nor can the memory find,
A sweeter sound than Thy blest Name,
O Saviour of mankind!

Nil canitur suavius,
Nil auditur iucundius,
Nil cogitatur dulcius,
Quam Jesus Dei Filius.

O Hope of every contrite heart,
O Joy of all the meek,
To those who fall, how kind Thou art!
How good to those who seek!

Jesu, spes paenitentibus,
Quam pius es petentibus!
Quam bonus te quaerentibus!
Sed quid invenientibus?

But what to those who find? Ah! this
Nor tongue nor pen can show;
The love of Jesus, what it is
None but His loved ones know.

Nec lingua valet dicere,
Nec littera exprimere:
Expertus potest credere,
Quid sit Jesum diligere.

Jesu, our only joy be Thou,
As thou our prize wilt be;
Jesu, be thou our glory now,
And through eternity. Amen

Sis, Jesu, nostrum gaudium,
Qui es futurus praemium:
Sit nostra in te gloria,
Per cuncta semper saecula. Amen

Jesu Rex admirabilis is part of the Hymn: Jesu Dulcis memoria
which is attributed to St. Bernard of Clairveaux

Hymn: Jesu Rex admirabilis

O Jesus King most wonderful
Thou conqueror renowned,
Thou sweetness most ineffable,
In whom all joys are found!

Jesu Rex admirabilis,
Et triumphator nobilis,
Dulcedo ineffabilis,
Totus desiderabilis.

When once Thou visitest the heart,
Then truth begins to shine;
Then earthly vanities depart;
Then kindles love divine.

Quando cor nostrum visitas,
Tune lucet ei veritas,
Mundi vilescit vanitas,
Et intus fervet caritas.

O Jesu, light of all below,
Thou fount of life and fire,
Surpassing all the joys we know,
And all we can desire:

Jesu dulcedo cordium,
Fons vivus, lumen mentium,
Excedens omne gaudium,
Et omne desiderium.

May every heart confess Thy Name,
And ever Thee adore;
And, seeking Thee, itself inflame
To seek Thee more and more.

Jesum omnes agnoscite,
Amorem ejus poscite:
Jesum ardenter quaerite,
Quaerendo inardescite.

Thee may our tongues forever bless;
Thee may we love alone;
And ever in our lives express
The image of Thine own.

Te nostra Jesu vox sonet,
Nostri te mores exprimant,
Te corda nostra diligant,
Et nunc, et in perpetuum. Amen


St. Bernard of Clairveaux, Abbot
by Father Francis Xavier Weninger, 1876

St. 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 St. 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 St. 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 St. 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, St. 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 St. 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 antipope, was induced by St. 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. St. 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 St. 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 defense 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 St. 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 St. 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.


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.

I. St. Bernard, when only a boy, would not allow anyone to alleviate or cure a headache by superstitious means. Take care that you 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.

II. St. 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 (Deut. xxii.)." She ought to have cried out; but not doing this was a sign that she did not seriously desire to defend herself.

III. 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 theatrical scenes?

IV. St. 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.

V. When he was tempted to weariness in the service of God, he reanimated himself by saying: "Bernard, why art thou 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?"

VI. St. 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.

VII. St. 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?

VIII. 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, St. 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.


From the Writings of St. Bernard

We are not innocent before God if we punish that which we should pardon, or pardon that which we should punish.

If you would know whether you have made a good confession, ask yourself if you have resolved to abandon your sins.

As patience leads to peace, and study to science, so are humiliations the path that leads to humility.

Prayer without fervor has not sufficient strength to rise to heaven.

"It is impossible that the Mother of God be not heard."

"It is the will of God, that all who receive from Him should pass through the hands of Mary."

Saint Bernard aptly says: "The angel announces, 'thou hast found grace before God." O supreme happiness! Mary shall always find grace. And what else could we wish? If we seek grace, let us seek it through Mary; for what she seeks, she finds. Never can she plead ineffectually."

"Devotion to the Blessed Virgin," says St. Bernard, "is a mark of predestination."

"Oh, how good and pleasant a thing it is to dwell in this Heart! Who, is there that does not love a heart so wounded? Who can refuse a return of love to a Heart so loving?"

St Bernard says that the devils, who are the apes of the Divinity, make a division of their forces, so that every man may have a bad angel, even as he has a good one.

"St. Bernard declares Mary to be omnipotent by means of her intercession; there is nothing that she cannot obtain for us. As at the court of an earthly monarch he is sure to succeed for whom the queen interests herself, so at the court of the King of kings those for whom Mary, the Queen of heaven, pleads, will not be disappointed of their desires. Thus Mary is our hope; because through her intercession we hope to procure the blessings which our poor prayers cannot obtain. Hence the saints speak of her as the dispenser of graces, for all the favors we receive from heaven come to us through her hands."

"Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life" (Apoc. ii,). St. Bernard says, "To obtain salvation, a man must faithfully fulfill the good promises he has made."

"God protects those," says St. Bernard: "who innocently fall into temptation, or who have to remain in it against their will: but not those who run wantonly into it, or who remain in it by their own consent."


The Portrait of the Saint

"Saint Bernard"
The Oracle of the 12th Century
Rev. Hugo H. Hoever

The whole world knows that God glorified his servant Bernard, Abbot of Clairvaux, through miraculous signs. However, he displayed the greatest miracle in his own person. His gaze was serene, and his appearance humble. In his sermons, he exercised prudent caution, and his actions were filled with fear of God. He was a man of meditation and prayer, who, in all his undertakings, trusted more in prayer than in his own abilities. God had given this holy soul a fitting body to assist him. A more spiritual than sensual charm enveloped his whole appearance. Heavenly glory brightened his face, and from his eyes shone out the innocence of an angel and the simplicity of a dove. So great was the interior beauty and fullness of grace of this man that it was radiated in his bodily exterior. The body of the Saint was built most tenderly and almost completely without flesh. A fine red covered his cheeks. His hair was very fair and the reddish beard grew grey in the last years of his life. Although he was only of medium height, Bernard appeared tall rather than short. If he could withdraw from exterior businesses he prayed, read, wrote, taught his monks or enjoyed silent meditation ..."


"With regard to clothing Bernard liked poverty, but not uncleanliness. This would, he said, rather be a sign of negligence or reveal a proud man who is intent on snatching some false glory from his fellow men. In the later years of his life, by order of the visiting Abbots he wore besides the "cuculla" (cowl) and tunic a short woolen coat and a head-wear of similar material. In spite of his bodily sufferings he could not be induced to put on a fur."

Gift of Speech

"Notwithstanding his weak body, Bernard had a strong and beautiful voice which was given him by God because He had chosen him for the office of preacher. Bernard knew well how to adapt his speech to the audience. With people from the country he talked like someone who himself was reared in the country. When he was dealing with representatives of other classes his words sounded as though he were familiar with their occupations in detail. This gift of eloquence which God had bestowed upon him became evident also by the fact that the Germans with great enthusiasm listened to his sermons, although they did not understand his language. No interpretation in their own language could have more edified or more deeply affected them. They contritely beat their chests during his sermons and wept loudly."

Interior Recollection

"When Bernard visited the charter- house (chartreuse) near Grenoble, Prior Guigo was amazed by the refined saddlery of Bernard's riding-animal which corresponded little with his poverty. When the holy Abbot learned of this he was also surprised and asked what kind of saddle it was. Bernard had ridden from Clairvaux to the charterhouse without taking notice of the saddle and up to this hour he did not know what it looked like. The riding-animal belonged to his uncle, a Cluniac monk, who lived close by and who had lent it to him. Bernard had used the horse just as his uncle had left it. When the Prior heard this explanation it was again his turn to be surprised. How must this servant of God have guarded his eyes! Bernard on his long way had not noticed what he (the Prior) had caught at first glance. In a similar way Bernard traveled a whole day along the shore of Lake Geneva without noting it or at least without being conscious of it. When in the evening his companions talked about the lake he asked, to the surprise of all, the time during which they had passed the lake.

"From the very first Bernard always endeavored to keep away from worldly things and to stay at the Monastery. For a certain time he was able to carry out this plan since the reference to his bodily weakness afforded a favorable excuse. But finally, the distressed condition of the Church of God and the command of the Pope as well as of the Abbots of the Order, to whom he readily submitted all his affairs, compelled him to step out of his solitude. He was surprised when he heard religious-minded people laughing loudly. Often we heard Bernard say that, since he entered the Monastery it was more difficult for him to laugh than to suppress the laughter."

The Humble, Amiable Monk

"Bernard had lived already for several years in Clairvaux when one day he decided to pay a friendly visit to Bishop Hugo of Grenoble and the Carthusians living close by. The Bishop who recognized the sanctity in his guest received him with such respect that he fell upon his knees before him. When the Abbot saw the aged Bishop in that position, he was much embarrassed. Immediately he also went on his knees, and then he received the Kiss of peace. From this time on, Bernard and the Bishop were intimate friends and seemed to be of one heart and soul.

"With the same love and respect the holy Abbot was received by Prior Guigo and the other friars of the "chartreuse." They were delighted to find in his person the picture that they had formed of him in their minds from his letters." (Gaufrid, Vita Bernardi, lib. Ill, c. 1-3.)

Bodily Sufferings and Death

"Bernard's health suffered from several bodily diseases. Especially dangerous was a narrowing of his gullet which hardly permitted the reception of solid food. Moreover he had a serious gastric condition. He found it difficult to stand for long periods; for this reason he usually sat and moved around only a little."

"After the holy Abbot had brought peace to Metz and all of Lorraine he returned to the Monastery and suffered much from the infirmities of his slowly decaying body. However, he faced death gladly and cheerfully just as one who enters the desired harbor and reefs the sails one by one. When Bishop Godfrey of Langres asked Bernard for his advice in an official affair he was astonished at his indifference. Bernard replied: 'Don't be surprised, I do not belong to this world any longer.'"

"He who desires further information on his sickness can obtain this knowledge from a letter which Bernard, a few days before his death, sent to a friend: 'I was glad to receive your letter, but my condition does not permit me to enjoy it fully. How could one even speak of pleasure when suffering prevails. Sleep eludes me so that pain is not even interrupted for a time by the blessing of drowsiness of the senses. A sick stomach is the cause of almost all my sufferings. Day and night it must be strengthened with beverages since it inexorably rejects any solid food . . . The feet and legs are swollen like those of a dropsical person. That nothing remains concealed between friends, I want to add that in spite of all hard- ship the spirit remains willing in the weak flesh. Pray to the Divine Redeemer that He may not detain the imminent death but mercifully allow me to die.'"

"Finally when the mortal frame was completely shattered, the waiting soul returned home. When this day of death commenced, which for Bernard was the beginning of eternal reward, the neighboring Bishops and many Abbots and friars gathered together. Now the loyal servant of our Lord, the first Abbot of Clairvaux, the (direct or indirect) founder of more than 160 Monasteries happily completed his course of life. He died at the age of almost 63, on August 20, 1153, in the presence of his spiritual sons."

"On August 22, he was buried in front of the altar of the Blessed Virgin and Mother, whose most devoted Priest he was. Upon his request a capsule with relics of St Thaddeus, which he had received that same year from Jerusalem, was laid on his chest. He desired to celebrate the day of general resurrection in communion with this apostle." (Gaufrid, Vita Bernardi, lib. V, c. 2.)

His Writings Reflect His Inner Life

"These, in brief, are some remarks on the holy life of St. Bernard. One becomes much better acquainted with him through his writings and letters, on which he stamped his picture. These became a mirror of his inner life. He who wants to learn what severe penance Bernard imposed upon himself, may read his book, "On the Steps of Humility" (De gradibus hwmlitatis). His piety and Godliness shine out of his sermon, "On the praise of the Virgin Mary" (De laude Mariae V.) and of the booklet, "On the love of God" (De diligendo Deo). He appears as a strict judge of himself as well as of the other monk's shortcomings in the "Apology" (Apologia ad Guillelmum), addressed to William of St. Thierry. Prudent moderation in spite of austerity, is revealed in his treatise, "On commandment and dispensation" (De praecepto et dispensatione). The "Encouragement of the Knights Templars" make us recognize that every good undertaking found support in his person. That he was not ungrateful for the grace of God becomes evident by his work, "On grace and free will" (De gratia et libero arbitrio). Everybody can recognize in the treatise, "On consideration" (De consideratione), dedicated to Pope Eugene, how frankly and eloquently he spoke, how well acquainted he was with the duties of superiors and subordinates. In the "Life of St. Malachy" (Vita St. Malachiae), he praised without envy the sanctity of others. In his "Sermons on the Canticle of Canticles" (Sermones in Cantica), Bernard reveals himself as an expert of the mystical life and as a teacher of the Christian striving for virtue. From his "Letters" (Epistolae), which on numerous occasions were addressed to different prominent persons, the observant reader leams how much Bernard loved justice and despised all injustice." (Gaufrid, Vita Bernard!, lib. Ill, c. 8, n. 29.)

From the Life of St. Bernard: Confession of a Devil During Exorcism

St. Bernard's Counsels for Confession

Music for this Page:
Hymns: Jusu Dulcis Memoria and Jesu Rex Admirabilis
Composed by Palestrina