This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Monday, August 20, 2012

August 20 -- Feast of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux

Rapping with the BVM and her son
Among the Doctors of the Church, Bernard is called the Mellifluous Doctor.  He'd lay those smooth words on a Church council and the bishops and abbots would fall right into line behind him.  He had the rare qualities of a top-shelf scholar and a prime mystic -- who in his age (or any age) could compete with that?  If he said that Peter Abelard's book on sin was heretical, librarians across Europe were reaching for their lighters.  If he said that Innocent II was properly elected pope, then kings and dukes from Supplinburg to Siena to Swansea signed on.  Granted, Anacletus II kept a schism going, but Bernard's support was critical to lining up most of the big players.

He's considered the second founder of the Cistercian Order.  When he joined, he showed up at the monastery in Citeaux (the French are great for using all the real vowels in a single word) with about thirty of his closest friends and family.  In my college fraternity, we would have called that a block rush and probably turned it down, but they were enthusiastically welcomed.  That turned out to be a good thing for the Cistercians, because in a few years Bernard and a handful of monks went off to found the abbey at Clairvaux.  A lot of monks made saint with the inception of just one monastery, but sixty-eight (68!) were started out of  Clairvaux Abbey.

The Mellifluous Doctor
With his fingerprints on so many monastic houses, his management of European politics from Germany to Italy, and his many books and sermons, it is little wonder that he was recruited for higher church office.  Humility is a virtue, of course.  Moreover, wise people understand their bases of power and don't move off them without good cause.  Bernard never had cause to move from his base, preferring instead to advance the careers of those who would be reasonable, sensible, and just.  His friend Pope Eugenius III, a Cistercian who had followed Bernard into the monastery, is a good example. 

Had to be included.  Sorry.
I might have thought that since Trappists are Cistercians whose abbey ale is especially prized,  Bernard might be considered among the patrons of brewers.  Apparently not -- he got beekeepers and candle-makers instead, a couple of the other crafts of Cistercian houses.  [Their jellies and jams are notable in this part of the US, but he's not the patron of that, either.]  He is also the patron of Gibraltar, which is nice.

This is also the feast of Samuel the Prophet, about whom I wrote a little last year. 

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