He was born near Dijon, in France, in 1090, of a noble family. In 1112 he joined the new monastery at Cîteaux. This had been founded fourteen years before, in a bid to reject the laxity and riches of the Benedictine Order (as exemplified by great monasteries such as Cluny) and to return to a primitive poverty and austerity of life. Bernard arrived at Cîteaux with four of his five brothers and two dozen friends. Within three years he had been sent out to found a new monastery at Clairvaux, in Champagne, where he remained abbot for the rest of his life. By the time of his death, the Cistercian Order had grown from one house to 343, of which 68 were daughter houses of Clairvaux itself. Bernard was a man of great holiness and wisdom, and although he was often in very poor health, he was active in many of the great public debates of the time. He strongly opposed the luxurious lives of some of the clergy, and fought against the persecution of the Jews. He was also a prolific writer, of an inspiring rather than a technical kind. The Church is always suffering from corruption and always being renewed. If St Bernard, so often ill, could take a leading part in this renewal, what excuse do we have?
Prayer from Morning Prayer:
you made Saint Bernard burn with zeal for your house,
and gave him grace to enkindle and enlighten others in your Church.
Grant that by his prayer we may be filled with the same spirit
and always live as children of the light.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.