Friday, August 20, 2010

Saint Bernard and the Love of God

Readings for Friday, August 20/Feast of St. Bernard of Clairvaux:
Ezekiel 37:1-14
Psalm 107:2-9
Matthew 22:34-40

Today the Church celebrates the life of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, a 12th Century Cistercian monk. Saint Bernard’s whole life was characterized by those two most important commandments we hear spoken on the lips of Christ in the gospel – love of God and love of neighbor. As a youth he was known for his great piety and love for Our Lady. Having lost his mother as a teenager, Bernard turned to The Blessed Mother to be his own mother. Through her care, Bernard was led to a deep devotion to the Lord and an intense love of God. So great and powerful was his love for God that when he entered the monastery at age 23, he did so not alone but joined by thirty other men who were compelled by his example of holiness and joy. Those thirty men were but a small sign of the great things to come in the life of Saint Bernard.

In the course of the next forty years, he would be called on time and again to undertake vitally important roles in the defense of the Church and of Truth. He was sent out to combat the heresies that had spread like wildfire. He was called upon to help mend divides in the Church between various factions and leaders. He was consulted for Church Councils and asked to go out during the Crusades. Just about every major events that went on during the span of his forty years as a monk ended up drawing him into it as a defender of the faith and for that he was named a doctor of the Church by Pope Pius VIII in the 19th century.

But above all of these glories, he surely would rejoice most in the role he played in encouraging devotion to Mary. Until that time the devotion to Mary was often viewed as being on the same level as devotion to any other saint, but with the theological writings of Saint Bernard there came the beginning of a wave of Marian devotion that would continue to surge even to today. A great devotee of the Blessed Mother, he truly came to know and love God and neighbor by her intercession and aid. And so today we take his example as our own and entrust ourselves to our Blessed Mother, Mary, desiring to have our hearts burn with love of God and neighbor as his did.

Saint Bernard, pray for us.