St. Bernard of Clairvaux

Bernard of Clairvaux (1091-1153) is one of the most important figures of the 12th century. He was a monastic Cistercian monk who, due to his intellect, his holiness, and his ability to balance needed reforms with sound doctrine, was much sought after by religious authorities in settling theological and ecclesial disputes. He even settled a papal schism in 1130, in favor of Pope Innocent II. As a young man, Bernard founded the abbey at Clairvaux with only twelve monks. Under his leadership, large numbers were soon attracted to the abbey, including his father and all his brothers, and Clairvaux became a spiritual center of influence, much to the dismay of the Abbey of Cluny in Paris. Bernard is well known for preaching the Second Crusade at the behest of the pope, successfully calling forth an army intent on retaking the Holy Land from the Seljuk Turks. The failure of the crusade caused Bernard much guilt and sadness in his later life. His feast day is August 20.

“There are those who seek knowledge for the sake of knowledge; that is Curiosity.
There are those who seek knowledge to be known by others; that is Vanity.
There are those who seek knowledge in order to serve; that is Love.”
— St. Bernard of Clairvaux

 Questions for Reflection

Imagine what it must have been like to meet Bernard of Clairvaux. He had such a charismatic personality that people were attracted to his abbey in droves, and his preaching inspired an entire army for the crusades. Bernard sought to use his gifts for the service of God and the church, but we also know that due to the disastrous results of his preaching, the Second Crusade weighed heavily on him in his old age. When have you experienced a charismatic personality given in service to God? How have you overcome the temptation in your own life to use your gifts for personal gain instead of surrendering them in love to God and God’s people?