Today we celebrate a great doctor of the Church, Saint Bernard of Clairvoux. He is called the “last of the Fathers of the Church” because in the 12th century he brought to the forefront the teachings of the Fathers of the Church. He was born in 1090 in France. By the time he was 25, he was sent to found a new abbey in Clairvoux. There he established a monastery he called for a sober and measured life, and recommended the support of the poor.
He combatted the Catharsis who despised the human body and creation, and thus despised the creator. He came to the defense of the Jews and condemned attacks against such them. So when somebody says the Church persecuted the Jewish people, tell them about Saint Bernard of Clairvoux. In 1144 he was commissioned to preach the second crusade in defense of the Holy Land. This was a penitential pilgrimage for those who went, and Saint Bernard exhorted the crowd: “The din of arms, the danger, the labors, the fatigues of war, are the penances that God now imposes upon you.” There was no sense of being bloodthirsty attackers, but rather a defense of brothers and sisters in the holy land who were being attacked by the Turks. The way of following Christ is one of humble service. We are called to follow Him on the way to the cross, not to exalt ourselves. Saint Bernard of Clairvoux, helps us to learn how to do this. When speaking of him, Benedict XVI said:
“And, dear brothers and sisters, this is true for every Christian: faith is first and foremost a personal, intimate encounter with Jesus, it is having an experience of his closeness, his friendship and his love. It is in this way that we learn to know him ever better, to love him and to follow him more and more. May this happen to each one of us!” (General Audience, 21 October 2009).
When we have this encounter with Christ, what we say and do will become one cohesive wholeness of life. The silent witness in our everyday lives will be a bridge for others who have never experienced the joy of encountering Christ.
Saint Bernard gives us a great piece of advice to follow especially on Saturday, the day devoted in honor of our Blessed Mother. He says “think of Mary, call upon Mary. She never leaves your lips, she never departs from your heart; and so that you may obtain the help of her prayers, never forget the example of her life. If you follow her, you cannot falter; if you pray to her, you cannot despair; if you think of her, you cannot err. If she sustains you, you will not stumble; if she protects you, you have nothing to fear; if she guides you, you will never flag; if she is favourable to you, you will attain your goal…” (Hom. II super Missus est, 17: PL 183, 70-71).