Bernard was born at the castle of Fontaines, in Burgundy. The grace of his person and the vigor of his intellect filled his parents with the highest hopes, and the world lay bright and smiling before him when he renounced it forever and joined the monks at Citeaux. All his brothers followed Bernard to Citeaux except Nivard, the youngest, who was left to be the stay of his father in his old age. “You will now be heir of everything,” said they to him, as they departed. “Yes,” said the boy; “you leave me earth, and keep heaven for yourselves; do you call that fair?” And he too left the world. At length their aged father came to exchange wealth and honor for the poverty of a monk of Clairvaux. One only sister remained behind; she was married, and loved the world and its pleasures. Magnificently dressed, she visited Bernard; he refused to see her, and only at last consented to do so, not as her brother, but as the minister of Christ. The words he then spoke moved her so much that, two years later, she retired to a convent with her husband’s consent, and died in the reputation of sanctity. Bernard’s holy example attracted so many novices that other monasteries were erected, and our Saint was appointed abbot of that of Clairvaux. Unsparing with himself, he at first expected too much of his brethren, who were disheartened at his severity; but soon perceiving his error, he led them forward, by the sweetness of his correction and the mildness of his rule, to wonderful perfection. In spite of his desire to lie hid, the fame of his sanctity spread far and wide, and many churches asked for him as their Bishop. Through the help of Pope Eugenius III., his former subject, he escaped this dignity; yet his retirement was continually invaded: the poor and the weak sought his protection; bishops, kings, and popes applied to him for advice; and at length Eugenius himself charged him to preach the crusade. By his fervor, eloquence, and miracles Bernard kindled the enthusiasm of Christendom, and two splendid armies were despatched against the infidel. Their defeat was only due, said the Saint, to their own sins. Bernard died in 1153. His most precious writings have earned for him the titles of the last of the Fathers and a Doctor of Holy Church.
Reflection.—St. Bernard used to say to those who applied for admission to the monastery, “If you desire to enter here, leave at the threshold the body you have brought with you from the world; here there is room only for your soul.” Let us constantly ask ourselves St. Bernard’s daily question, “To what end didst thou come hither?”
The Abbey of Citeaux, mother-house of the Cistercian Order, Aug 2014.
The monks are gathering at mid-day for the little office of Sext.
Citation extracted from the Catholic Encyclopedia.
“Founded in 1098 by St. Robert, Abbot of Molesme, in a deserted and uninhabited part of the Diocese of Châlons-sur Saône, today the Diocese of Dijon (Côte-d’Or, France), from which city it is four leagues distant. A small stream of water which overflowed its banks formed there a marsh covered with rushes and coarse grass called in the language of the country cistels, whence the name Cistell or Cîteaux (Latin Cistercium). Here, in a place unknown to men and hitherto inhabited only by wild beasts, St. Robert and his companions, to the number of twenty-one, placed the foundations of the Order of Cîteaux, and commenced the literal observance of the Rule of St. Benedict. St. Robert built the first monastery of the Cistercian Order, which he named Novum Monasterium (new monastery), to distinguish it from the monastery of Molesme from which he and his brethren had come. The domain in which Cîteaux was situated belonged to Raynald, Viscount of Beaune, who, with his wife Hodierna, gave it voluntarily to God and the Virgin Mary. The name of Cîteaux, which this place formerly bore, soon supplanted that of Novum Monasterium, by which it is called in the “Exordium Cisterciensis Ordinis”. The Duke of Burgundy, Eudes I, touched by the holy life of the monks of Cîteaux, encouraged the work and took upon himself the obligation of defraying all the expenses. The new monastery was inaugurated on the feast of St. Benedict, 21 March, 1098. St Robert was elected Abbot of Cîteaux, but, recalled to Molesme a year afterwards, he was succeeded by St. Alberic, who gave the monks the white habit and placed the monastery immediately under the protection of the Holy See. Under St. Alberic’s successor, St. Stephen Harding, the number of subjects was increased by the arrival of St. Bernard and his thirty companions, all young noblemen of Burgundy, and the order commenced to send out colonies. La Ferté (Fermitas), in the Diocese of Châlons (today of Autun), Pontigny (Pontiniacum) in the Diocese of Auxerre, Clairvaux (Claravallis), in the Diocese of Langres (today of Troyes), and Morimond (Morimundus), in the same Diocese of Langres, were the first four daughters of Cîteaux, which, in their turn, gave birth to many monasteries. The abbots of these houses were called the first four Fathers of the order, and the “Charter of Charity”, work of St. Stephen, conferred upon them the right of visiting the Abbey of Cîteaux.” ………
St. Bernard, Abbot and Doctor of the Church St. Bernard was born of noble parentage in Burgundy, France, in the castle of Fontaines near Dijon. Under the care of his pious parents he was sent at an early age to a college at Chatillon, where he was conspicuous for his remarkable piety and spirit of recollection. At the same place he entered upon the studies of theology and Holy Scripture. After the death of his mother, fearing the snares and temptations of the world, he resolved to embrace the newly established and very austere institute of the Cistercian Order, of which he was destined to become the greatest ornament. He also persuaded his brothers and several of his friends to follow his example. In 1113, St. Bernard, with thirty young noblemen, presented himself to the holy Abbot, St. Stephen, at Citeaux. After a novitiate spent in great fervor, he made his profession in the following year. His superior soon after, seeing the great progress he had made in the spiritual life, sent him with twelve monks to found a new monastery, which afterward became known as the celebrated Abbey of Clairvaux. St. Bernard was at once appointed Abbot and began that active life which has rendered him the most conspicuous figure in the history of the 12th century. He founded numerous other monasteries, composed a number of works and undertook many journeys for the honor of God. Several Bishoprics were offered him, but he refused them all. The reputation of St. Bernard spread far and wide; even the Popes were governed by his advice. He was commissioned by Pope Eugene III to preach the second Crusade. In obedience to the Sovereign Pontiff he traveled through France and Germany, and aroused the greatest enthusiasm for the holy war among the masses of the population. The failure of the expedition raised a great storm against the saint, but he attributed it to the sins of the Crusaders. St. Bernard was eminently endowed with the gift of miracles.