Saint Bernard of Clairvaux

Feast Day: August 1

THE VIRGIN APPEARING TO ST. BERNARD

Saint Bernard

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 His parents were Tescelin, lord of Fontaines, and Aleth of Montbard, both belonging to the highest nobility of Burgundy. Bernard, the third of a family of seven children, six of whom were sons, was educated with particular care, because, while yet unborn, a devout man had foretold his great destiny. At the age of nine years, Bernard was sent to a much renowned school at Chatillon-sur-Seine, kept by the secular canons of Saint-Vorles. He had a great taste for literature and devoted himself for some time to poetry. His success in his studies won the admiration of his masters, and his growth in virtue was no less marked. Bernard's great desire was to excel in literature in order to take up the study of Sacred Scripture, which later on became, as it were, his own tongue. "Piety was his all," says Bossuet. He had a special devotion to the Blessed Virgin, and there is no one who speaks more sublimely of the Queen of Heaven. Bernard was scarcely nineteen years of age when his mother died. During his youth, he did not escape trying temptations, but his virtue triumphed over them, in many instances in a heroic manner, and from this time he thought of retiring from the world and living a life of solitude and prayer.

    St. Robert, Abbot of Molesmes, had founded, in 1098, the monastery of Cîteaux, about four leagues from Dijon, with the purpose of restoring the Rule of St. Benedict in all its rigour. Returning to Molesmes, he left the government of the new abbey to St. Alberic, who died in the year 1109. St. Stephen had just succeeded him (1113) as third Abbot of Cîteaux, when Bernard with thirty young noblemen of Burgundy, sought admission into the order. Three years later, St. Stephen sent the young Bernard, at the head of a band of monks, the third to leave Cîteaux, to found a new house at Vallée d'Absinthe, or Valley of Bitterness, in the Diocese of Langres. This Bernard named Claire Vallée, of Clairvaux, on the 25th of June, 1115, and the names of Bernard and Clairvaux thence became inseparable. During the absence of the Bishop of Langres, Bernard was blessed as abbot by William of Champeaux, Bishop of Châlons-sur-Marne, who saw in him the predestined man, servum Dei. From that moment a strong friendship sprang up between the abbot and the bishop, who was professor of theology at Notre Dame of Paris, and the founder of the cloister of St. Victor.

    The beginnings of Clairvaux were trying and painful. The regime was so austere that Bernard's health was impaired by it, and only the influence of his friend William of Champeaux, and the authority of the General Chapter could make him mitigate his austerities. The monastery, however, made rapid progress. Disciples flocked to it in great numbers, desirous of putting themselves under the direction of Bernard. His father, the aged Tescelin, and all his brothers entered Clairvaux as religious, leaving only Humbeline, his sister, in the world and she, with the consent of her husband, soon took the veil in the Benedictine Convent of Jully. Clairvaux becoming too small for the religious who crowded there, it was necessary to send out bands to found new houses. n 1118, the Monastery of the Three Fountains was founded in the Diocese of Châlons; in 1119, that of Fontenay in the Diocese of Auton (now Dijon) and in 1121, that of Foigny, near Vervins, in the Diocese of Laon (now Soissons), Notwithstanding this prosperity, the Abbot of Clairvaux had his trials. During an absence from Clairvaux, the Grand Prior of Cluny, Bernard of Uxells, sent by the Prince of Priors, to use the expression of Bernard, went to Clairvaux and enticed away the abbot's cousin, Robert of Châtillon. This was the occasion of the longest, and most touching of Bernard's letters.

    In the year 1119, Bernard was present at the first general chapter of the order convoked by Stephen of Cîteaux. Though not yet thirty years old, Bernard was listened to with the greatest attention and respect, especially when he developed his thoughts upon the revival of the primitive spirit of regularity and fervour in all the monastic orders. It was this general chapter that gave definitive form to the constitutions of the order and the regulations of the "Charter of Charity" which Pope Callixtus II confirmed 23 December, 1119. In 1120 Bernard composed his first work "De Gradibus Superbiae et Humilitatis" and his homilies which he entitles "De Laudibus Mariae". The monks of Cluny had not seen, with satisfaction, those of Cîteaux take the first place among the religious orders for regularity and fervour. For this reason there was a temptation on the part of the "Black Monks" to make it appear that the rules of the new order were impracticable. At the solicitation of William of St. Thierry, Bernard defended himself by publishing his "Apology" which is divided into two parts. In the first part he proves himself innocent of the invectives against Cluny, which had been attributed to him, and in the second he gives his reasons for his attack upon averred abuses. He protests his profound esteem for the Benedictines of Cluny whom he declares he loves equally as well as the other religious orders. Peter the Venerable, Abbot of Cluny, answered the Abbot of Clairvaux without wounding charity in the least, and assured him of his great admiration and sincere friendship. In the meantime Cluny established a reform, and Suger himself, the minister of Louis le Gros, and Abbot of St. Denis, was converted by the apology of Bernard. He hastened to terminate his worldly life and restore discipline in his monastery. The zeal of Bernard did not stop here; it extended to the bishops, the clergy, and the faithful, and remarkable conversions of persons engaged in worldly pursuits were among the fruits of his labours. Bernard's letter to the Archbishop of Sens is a real treatise "De Officiis Episcoporum". About the same time he wrote his work on "Grace and Free Will".

    In the year 1128, Bernard assisted at the Council of Troyes, which had been convoked by Pope Honorius II, and was presided over by Cardinal Matthew, Bishop of Albano. The purpose of this council was to settle certain disputes of the bishops of Paris, and regulate other matters of the Church of France. The bishops made Bernard secretary of the council, and charged him with drawing up the synodal statutes. After the council, the Bishop of Verdun was deposed. There then arose against Bernard unjust reproaches and he was denounced even in Rome, as a monk who meddled with matters that did not concern him. Cardinal Harmeric, on behalf of the pope, wrote Bernard a sharp letter of remonstrance. "It is not fitting" he said "that noisy and troublesome frogs should come out of their marshes to trouble the Holy See and the cardinals". Bernard answered the letter by saying that, if he had assisted at the council, it was because he had been dragged to it, as it were, by force. "Now illustrious Harmeric", he added, "if you so wished, who would have been more capable of freeing me from the necessity of assisting at the council than yourself? Forbid those noisy troublesome frogs to come out of their holes, to leave their marshes . . . Then your friend will no longer be exposed to the accusations of pride and presumption". This letter made a great impression upon the cardinal, and justified its author both in his eyes and before the Holy See. It was at this council that Bernard traced the outlines of the Rule of the Knights Templars who soon became the ideal of the French nobility. Bernard praises it in his "De Laudibus Novae Militiae".

    The influence of the Abbot of Clairvaux was soon felt in provincial affairs. He defended the rights of the Church against the encroachments of kings and princes, and recalled to their duty Henry Archbishop of Sens, and Stephen de Senlis, Bishop of Paris. On the death of Honorius II, which occurred on the 14th of February, 1130, a schism broke out in the Church by the election of two popes, Innocent II and Anacletus II. Innocent II having been banished from Rome by Anacletus took refuge in France. King Louis le Gros convened a national council of the French bishops at Etampes, and Bernard, summoned thither by consent of the bishops, was chosen to judge between the rival popes. He decided in favour of Innocent II, caused him to be recognized by all the great Catholic powers, went with him into Italy, calmed the troubles that agitated the country, reconciled Pisa with Genoa, and Milan with the pope and Lothaire. According to the desire of the latter, the pope went to Liège to consult with the emperor upon the best means to be taken for his return to Rome, for it was there that Lothaire was to receive the imperial crown from the hands of the pope. From Liège, the pope returned to France, paid a visit to the Abbey of St. Denis, and then to Clairvaux where his reception was of a simple and purely religious character. The whole pontifical court was touched by the saintly demeanor of this band of monks. In the refectory only a few common fishes were found for the pope, and instead of wine, the juice of herbs was served for drink, says an annalist of Cîteaux. It was not a table feast that was served to the pope and his followers, but a feast of virtues. The same year Bernard was again at the Council of Reims at the side of Innocent II, whose oracle he was; and then in Aquitaine where he succeeded for the time in detaching William, Count of Poitiers, from the cause of Anacletus.

    In 1132, Bernard accompanied Innocent II into Italy, and at Cluny the pope abolished the dues which Clairvaux used to pay to this celebrated abbey--an action which gave rise to a quarrel between the "White Monks" and the "Black Monks" which lasted twenty years. In the month of May, the pope supported by the army of Lothaire, entered Rome, but Lothaire, feeling himself too weak to resist the partisans of Anacletus, retired beyond the Alps, and Innocent sought refuge in Pisa in September, 1133. In the meantime the abbot had returned to France in June, and was continuing the work of peacemaking which he had commenced in 1130. Towards the end of 1134, he made a second journey into Aquitaine, where William X had relapsed into schism. This would have died out of itself if William could have been detached from the cause of Gerard, who had usurped the See of Bordeaux and retained that of Angoulême. Bernard invited William to the Mass which he celebrated in the Church of La Couldre. At the moment of the Communion, placing the Sacred Host upon the paten, he went to the door of the church where William was, and pointing to the Host, he adjured the Duke not to despise God as he did His servants. William yielded and the schism ended. Bernard went again to Italy, where Roger of Sicily was endeavouring to withdraw the Pisans from their allegiance to Innocent. He recalled the city of Milan, which had been deceived and misled by the ambitious prelate Anselm, Archbishop of Milan, to obedience to the pose, refused the Archbishopric of Milan, and returned finally to Clairvaux. Believing himself at last secure in his cloister Bernard devoted himself with renewed vigour to the composition of those pious and learned works which have won for him the title of "Doctor of the Church". He wrote at this time his sermons on the "Canticle of Canticles". In 1137 he was again forced to leave his solitude by order of the pope to put an end to the quarrel between Lothaire and Roger of Sicily. At the conference held at Palermo, Bernard succeeded in convincing Roger of the rights of Innocent II and in silencing Peter of Pisa who sustained Anacletus. The latter died of grief and disappointment in 1138, and with him the schism. Returning to Clairvaux, Bernard occupied himself in sending bands of monks from his too-crowded monastery into Germany, Sweden, England, Ireland, Portugal, Switzerland, and Italy. Some of these, at the command of Innocent II, took possession of Three Fountains Abbey, near the Salvian Waters in Rome, from which Pope Eugenius III was chosen. Bernard resumed his commentary on the "Canticle of Canticles", assisted in 1139, at the Second General Lateran Council and the Tenth Oecumenical, in which the surviving adherents of the schism were definitively condemned. About the same time, Bernard was visited at Clairvaux by St. Malachi, metropolitan of the Church in Ireland, and a very close friendship was formed between them. St. Malachi would gladly have taken the Cistercian habit, but the sovereign pontiff would not give his permission. He died, however, at Clairvaux in 1148.

    In the year 1140, we find Bernard engaged in other matters which disturbed the peace of the Church. Towards the close of the eleventh century, the schools of philosophy and theology, dominated by the passion for discussion and a spirit of independence which had introduced itself into political and religious questions, became a veritable public arena, with no other motive than that of ambition. This exaltation of human reason and rationalism found an ardent and powerful adherent in Abelard, the most eloquent and learned man of the age after Bernard. "The history of the calamities and the refutation of his doctrine by St. Bernard", says Ratisbonne, "form the greatest episode of the twelfth century". Abelard's treatise on the Trinity had been condemned in 1121, and he himself had thrown his book into the fire. But in 1139 he advocated new errors. Bernard, informed of this by William of St. Thierry, wrote to Abelard who answered in an insulting manner. Bernard then denounced him to the pope who caused a general council to be held at Sens. Abelard asked for a public discussion with Bernard; the latter showed his opponent's errors with such clearness and force of logic that he was unable to make any reply, and was obliged, after being condemned, to retire. he pope confirmed the judgment of the council, Abelard submitted without resistance, and retired to Cluny to live under Peter the Venerable, where he died two years later.

    Innocent II died in 1143. His two successors, Celestin II and Lucius, reigned only a short time, and then Bernard saw one of his disciples, Bernard of Pisa, Abbott of Three Fountains, and known thereafter as Eugenius III, raised to the Chair of St. Peter. Bernard sent him, at his own request, various instructions which compose the "Book of Consideration", the predominating idea of which is that the reformation of the Church ought to commence with the sanctity of the head. Temporal matters are merely accessories; the principal are piety, meditation, or consideration, which ought to precede action. The book contains a most beautiful page on the papacy, and has always been greatly esteemed by the sovereign pontiffs, many of whom used it for their ordinary reading.

    Alarming news came at this time from the East. Edessa had fallen into the hands of the Turks, and Jerusalem and Antioch were threatened with similar disaster. Deputations of the bishops of Armenia solicited aid from the pope, and the King of France also sent ambassadors. The pope commissioned Bernard to preach a new Crusade and granted the same indulgences for it which Urban II had accorded to the first. A parliament was convoked at Vezelay in Burgundy in 1134, and Bernard preached before the assembly. The King, Louis le Jeune, Queen Eleanor, and the princes and lords present prostrated themselves at the feet of the Abbot of Clairvaux to receive the cross. The saint was obliged to use portions of his habit to make crosses to satisfy the zeal and ardour of the multitude who wished to take part in the Crusade. Bernard passed into Germany, and the miracles which multiplied almost at his every step undoubtedly contributed to the success of his mission. The Emperor Conrad and his nephew Frederick Barbarossa, received the pilgrims' cross from the hand of Bernard, and Pope Eugenius, to encourage the enterprise, came in person to France. It was on the occasion of this visit, 1147, that a council was held at Paris, at which the errors of Gilbert de la Porée, Bishop of Poitiers, were examined. He advanced among other absurdities that the essence and the attributes of God are not God, that the properties of the Persons of the Trinity are not the persons themselves in fine that the Divine Nature did not become incarnate. The discussion was warm on both sides. The decision was left for the council which was held at Reims the following year (1148), and in which Eon de l'Etoile was one of the judges. Bernard was chosen by the council to draw up a profession of faith directly opposed to that of Gilbert, who concluding by stating to the Fathers: "If you believe and assert differently than I have done I am willing to believe and speak as you do". The consequence of this declaration was that the pope condemned the assertions of Gilbert without denouncing him personally. After the council the pope paid a visit to Clairvaux, where he held a general chapter of the order and was able to realize the prosperity of which Bernard was the soul.

    The last years of Bernard's life were saddened by the failure of the Crusade he had preached, the entire responsibility for which was thrown upon him. He had accredited the enterprise by miracles, but he had not guaranteed its success against the misconduct and perfidy of those who participated in it. Lack of discipline and the over-confidence of the German troops, the intrigues of the Prince of Antioch and Queen Eleanor, and finally the avarice and evident treason of the Christian nobles of Syria, who prevented the capture of Damascus, appear to have been the cause of disaster. Bernard considered it his duty to send an apology to the pope and it is inserted in the second part of his "Book of Consideration". There he explains how, with the crusaders as with the Hebrew people, in whose favour the Lord had multiplies his prodigies, their sins were the cause of their misfortune and miseries. The death of his contemporaries served as a warning to Bernard of his own approaching end The first to die was Suger (1152), of whom the Abbot wrote to Eugenius III: "If there is any precious vase adorning the palace of the King of Kings it is the soul of the venerable Suger". Thibaud, Count of Champagne, Conrad, Emperor of Germany, and his son Henry died the same year. From the beginning of the year 1153 Bernard felt his death approaching. The passing of Pope Eugenius had struck the fatal blow by taking from him one whom he considered his greatest friend and consoler. Bernard died in the sixty-third year of his age, after forty years spent in the cloister. He founded one hundred and sixty-three monasteries in different parts of Europe; at his death they numbered three hundred and forty-three. He was the first Cistercian monk placed on the calendar of saints and was canonized by Alexander III, 18 January 1174. Pope Pius VIII bestowed on him the title of Doctor of the Church. The Cistercians honour him as only the founders of orders are honoured, because of the wonderful and widespread activity which he gave to the Order of Cîteaux.

    The works of St. Bernard are as follows:

bullet "De Gradibus Superbiae", his first treatise;
bullet "Homilies on the Gospel 'Missus est'" (1120);
bullet "Apology to William of St. Thierry" against the claims of the monks of Cluny;
bullet "On the Conversion of Clerics", a book addressed to the young ecclesiastics of Paris (1122);
bullet "De Laudibus Novae Militiae", addressed to Hughes de Payns, first Grand Master and Prior of Jerusalem (1129). This is a eulogy of the military order instituted in 1118, and an exhortation to the knights to conduct themselves with courage in their several stations.
bullet "De amore Dei" wherein St. Bernard shows that the manner of loving God is to love Him without measure and gives the different degree of this love;
bullet "Book of Precepts and Dispensations" (1131), which contains answers to questions upon certain points of the Rule of St. Benedict from which the abbot can, or cannot, dispense;
bullet "De Gratiâ et Libero Arbitrio" in which the Catholic dogma of grace and free will is proved according to the principles of St. Augustine;
bullet "Book of Considerations", addressed to Pope Eugenius III;
bullet "De Officiis Episcoporum", addressed to Henry, Archbishop of Sens.

 

    His sermons are also numerous:

bullet "On Psalm 90, 'Qui habitat'" (about 1125);
bullet "On the Canticle of Canticles". St. Bernard explained in eighty-six sermons only the first two chapters of the Canticle of Canticles and the first verse of the third chapter.
bullet There are also eighty-six "Sermons for the Whole Year"; his "Letters" number 530.

 

    Many other letters, treatises, etc., falsely attributed to him are found among his works, such as the "l'Echelle du Cloître", which is the work of Guigues, Prior of La Grande Chartreuse, les Méditations, l'Edification de la Maison intérieure, etc.

The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume II
Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York

Prayers to Saint Bernard

The Litany of St. Bernard of Clairvaux
For Private Use Only.
 

Lord, have mercy on us,
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us. Christ, hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.
God the Father of Heaven,
Have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world,
Have mercy on us.
God, the Holy Ghost,
Have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, One God,
Have mercy on us.

Holy Mary, Mother of God,
Pray for us.
Queen conceived without sin,
Pray for us.
Saint Bernard, etc.
St. Bernard, who in giving thyself to God, drew many souls to Him,
St. Bernard, prodigy of the eleventh age,
St. Bernard, ornament of the clergy,
St. Bernard, terror of heretics,
St. Bernard, oracle of the Church,
St. Bernard, light of bishops,
St. Bernard, most humble,
St. Bernard, burning with zeal for the glory of God,
St. Bernard, most ardent for the honor of Mary,
St. Bernard, most beloved son of the Queen of Angels,
St. Bernard, most pure in body and mind,
St. Bernard, perfect model of poverty and mortification,
St. Bernard, most ardent in charity to all,
St. Bernard, who feared God and not earthly powers,
St. Bernard, whose whole exterior breathed holiness,
St. Bernard, whose very look spoke of God,
St. Bernard, flower of religious,
St. Bernard, who never lost sight of the presence of God,
St. Bernard, angel of Clairvaux,
St. Bernard, always absorbed in God,

Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
Here us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
Spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world,
Have mercy on us.


Let Us Pray.

  O great Saint, who from the very dawn of life turned all the powers of thy soul and the noble affections of thy pure and loving heart toward thy Creator; O angel clothed in mortal flesh, who appeared in this valley of tears as a bright lily of purity to shed around thee the good odor of Christ, to show to all the beauty of virtue, and to point out to thousands the way to Heaven-----O pray for us, that truly despising all earthly objects, we may live for God alone. R. Amen.

Prayers of St. Bernard

Rhythmical Prayer to the Sacred Members of Jesus Hanging on the Cross

TO THE FEET

O Saviour of the world, I cry to Thee; O Saviour, suffering God, I worship Thee; O wounded beauteous Love, I kneel to Thee; Thou knowest, Lord, how I would follow Thee, If of Thyself Thou give Thyself to Me.

Thy Presence I Believe; O come to me! Behold me prostrate, Jesus; look on me! How beautiful Thou art! O turn to me! O in Thy tender mercy turn to me, And let Thy untold pity pardon me!

With trembling love and feat I worship Thee; I kiss the grievous nails which entered Thee, And think on those dire wounds which tortured Thee, And, grieving, lift my weeping eyes to Thee, Transfixed and dying all for love of me!

O wondrous grace! O gracious charity! O love of sinners in such agony! Sweet Father of the poor! O who can be Unmoved to witness this great mystery,-- The Healer smitten, hanging on a tree?

O gentle Jesus, turn Thee unto me; What I have broken do Thou bind in me, And what is crooked make Thou straight in me; What I have lost restore Thou unto me, And what is weak and sickly heal in me.

O Love! with all my strength I seek for Thee; Upon and in thy Cross I look for Thee; With sorrow and with hope I turn to Thee,-- That through Thy Blood new health may come to me, That washed therein Thy love may pardon me.

O take my heart, Thou Loved One; let it be Transfixed with those dear wounds for love of Thee, O wound it, Jesus, with pure love of Thee; And let it so be crucified with Thee, that it may be forever joined to Thee.

Sweet Jesus, loving God, I cry to Thee; Thou guilty, yet I come for love of Thee; O show Thyself, dear Saviour, kind to me! Unworthy as I am, O turn to me, Nor at thy sacred Feet abandon me!

Dear Jesus, bathed in tears, I kneel to Thee; In shame and grief I lift my eyes to Thee; Prostrate before Thy Cross I bow to Thee, And thy dear Feet embrace; O look on me, Yea, from Thy Cross, O look, and pardon me.

O my Beloved, stretched against that Thee, Whose arms divine are now enfolding me, whose gracious Heart is now upholding me,-- O my Beloved, let me wholly be Transformed, forgiven, one alone with Thee!

TO THE KNEES

O Jesus, King of Saints, I worship Thee; O hope of sinners, hail! I rest on Thee; True God, true man, Thou hangest on the Tree Transfixed, with quivering flesh and shaking knees, A criminal esteemed,--I worship Thee.

Alas, how poor, how naked, wilt Thou be! How hast Thou stript Thyself for love of me, How made Thyself a gazing-stock to be! Not forced, but, O my God! How willingly In all Thy limbs Thou sufferest on that Tree!

Thy Precious Blood wells forth abundantly From all Thy open wounds incessantly; All bathed therein, O God, in agony Thou standest on the Cross of infamy, Awaiting the appointed hour to die.

O infinite, O wondrous majesty! O terrible, unheard-of poverty! Ah, who, returning so great charity, I willing, Jesus, thus to give for Thee His blood for Thine, in faithful love for Thee?

O Jesus, how shall I, then, answer Thee, Who am so vile, and have not followed Thee? Or how repay the love that loveth me With such sublime, such awful charity Transfixed, from double death to set me free?

O Jesus, what Thy love hath been for me! O Jesus, death could never conquer Thee! Ah, with what loving care Thou keepest me Enfolded in Thine arms, lest I should be, By death of sin, a moment torn from Thee!

Behold, O Jesus, how for love of Thee, With all my soul I trembling cling to Thee, And Thy dear Knees embrace. O pity me! Thou knowest why--in pity bear with me, And overlook the shame that covers me!

O let the Blood I worship flow on me, That what I do may never anger Thee; The Blood which flows at every pore from Thee Each imperfection may it wash from me, That I may undefiled and perfect be.

O force me, best Beloved, to draw to Thee, Transfixed and bleeding on the shameful Tree, Despised and stretched in dying agony! All my desire, O Lord, is fixed on Thee; O call me, then, and I will follow Thee.

I have no other love, dear Lord, but Thee; Thou art my first and last; I cling to Thee. It is no labor, Lord; love sets me free; Then heal me, cleanse me, let me rest on Thee, For love is life, and life is love--in Thee.

TO THE HANDS

Hail, holy Shepherd! Lord, I worship Thee, Fatigued with combat, steeped in misery; Whose sacred Hands, outstretched in agony, All pierced and dislocated on the Tree, Are fastened to the wood of infamy.

Dear holy Hands, I humbly worship ye, With roses filled, fresh blossoms of that Tree; The cruel iron enters into ye, While open gashes yield unceasingly The Precious stream down-dropping from the Tree.

Behold, Thy Blood, O Jesus, flows on me-- The price of my salvation falls on me; O ruddy as the rose, it drops on me. Sweet Precious Blood, it wells abundantly From both Thy sacred Hands to set me free.

My heart leaps up, O Jesus, unto Thee; Drawn by those nail-pierced Hands it flies to Thee; Drawn by those Blood-stained Hands stretched out for me, My soul breaks out with sighing unto Thee, And longs to slake its thirst, O Love, in Thee.

My God, what great stupendous charity-- Both good and bad are welcomed here by Thee! The slothful heart Thou drawest graciously, The loving one Thou callest tenderly, And unto all a pardon grantest free.

Behold, I now present myself to Thee, Who dost present thy bleeding Hands to me; The sick Thou healest when they come to Thee; Thou canst not, therefore, turn away from me, Whose love Thou knowest, Lord, is all for Thee.

O my Beloved, fastened to the Tree, Draw, by Thy love, my senses unto Thee; My will, my intellect, my memory, And all I am, make subject unto Thee, In whose dear arms alone is liberty.

O draw me for Thy Cross' sake to Thee; O draw me for Thy so wide charity; Sweet Jesus, draw my heart in truth to Thee, O put an end to all my misery, And crown me with Thy Cross and victory!

O Jesus, place Thy sacred Hands on me, With transport let me kiss them tenderly, With groans and tears embrace them fervently; And, O for these deep wounds I worship Thee; And for hte blessed drops that fall on me!

O dearest Jesus, I commend to Thee Myself, and all I am, most perfectly; Bathed in Thy Blood, behold, I live for Thee; O, may Thy blessed Hands encompass me, And in extremity deliver me!

TO THE SIDE

O Jesus, highest Good, I yearn for Thee; O Jesus, merciful, I hope in Thee, Whose sacred Body hands upon the Tree, Whose limbs, all dislocated painfully, Are stretched in torture, all for love of me!

Hail, sacred Side of Jesus! Verily The hidden spring of mercy lies in Thee, The source of honeyed sweetness dwells in Thee, The fountain of redemption flows from Thee, The secret well of love that cleanses me.

Behold, O King of Love, I draw to Thee; If I am wrong, O Jesus, pardon me; Thy love, Beloved, calls me lovingly, As I with blushing cheek gaze willingly Upon the living wound that bleeds for me.

O gentle opening, I worship Thee; O open door and deep, I look in Thee; O most pure stream, I gaze and gaze on Thee: More ruddy than the rose, I draw to Thee; More healing than all health, I fly to Thee.

More sweet than wine Thine odor is for me; The poisoned breath of sin it drives from me; Thou art the draught of life poured out for me. O ye who thirst, come, drink thereof with me; And Thou, sweet wound, O open unto me.

O red wound open, let me draw to Thee, And let my throbbing heart be filled from Thee! Ah, see! My heart, Beloved, faints for Thee. O my Beloved, open unto me, That I may pass and lose myself in Thee.

Lord, with my mouth I touch and worship Thee, With all the strength I have I cling to Thee, With all my love I plunge my heart in Thee, My very life-blood would I drawn from Thee,-- O Jesus, Jesus! Draw me into Thee!

How Sweet Thy savor is! Who tastes of Thee, O Jesus Christ, can relish naught but Thee; Who tastes Thy living sweetness lives by Thee; All else is void--the soul must die for Thee; So faints my heart,--so would I die for thee.

I languish, Lord! O let me hide in Thee! In Thy sweet Side, my Love, O bury me! And may the fire divine consuming Thee Burn in my heart where it lies hid in Thee, Without a fear reposing peacefully!

When in the hour of death Thou callest me, O Love of loves, may my soul enter Thee; May my last breath, O Jesus fly to Thee; So no fierce beast may drive my heart from Thee, But in Thy Side may it remain with Thee!

TO THE BREAST

O God of my salvation, hail to Thee! O Jesus, sweetest Love, all hail to Thee! O venerable Breast, I worship Thee; O dwelling-place of love, I fly to Thee, With trembling touch adore and worship Thee.

Hail, throne of the Most Holy Trinity! Hail, ark immense of tender charity! Thou stay of weakness and infirmity, Sweet rest of weary souls who rest on Thee, Dear couch of loving ones who lean on Thee!

With reverence, O Love, I kneel to Thee, O worthy to be ever sought by me; Behold me, Jesus, looking unto Thee. O, set my heart on fire, dear Love, from Thee, And burn it in the flame that burns in Thee.

O make my breast a precious home for thee, A furnace of sweet love and purity, A well of holy grief and piety; Deny my will, conform it unto Thee, That grace abundant may be mine in Thee.

Sweet Jesus, loving Shepherd, come to me; Dear Son of God and Mary, come to me; Kind Father come, let Thy Heart pity me, And cleanse the fountain of my misery In that great fountain of Thy clemency.

Hail, fruitful splendor of the Deity! Hail, fruitful figure of Divinity! From the full treasure of Thy charity, O pour some gift in Thy benignity Upon the desolate who cry to Thee!

Dear Breast of most sweet Jesus, mine would be All Thine in its entire conformity; Absolve it from all sin, and set it free, That it may burn with ardent charity, And never, never cease to think on Thee.

Abyss of wisdom from eternity, The harmonies of angels worship Thee; Entrancing sweetness flows, O Breast, from thee; John tasted it as he lay rapt on Thee; O grant me thus that I may dwell in Thee!

Hail, fountain deep of God's benignity! The fullness of the immense Divinity Hath found at last a creature home in Thee. Ah, may the counsel that I learn from Thee All imperfection purify in me!

True temple of the Godhead, hail to Thee! O draw me in Thy gracious charity, Thou ark of goodness, full of grace for me. Great God of all, have mercy upon me, And on Thy right hand keep a place for me.

TO THE FACE

Hail, bleeding Head of Jesus, hail to Thee! Thou thorn-crowned Head, I humbly worship Thee! O wounded Head, I lift my hands to Thee; O lovely Face besmeared, I gaze on Thee; O bruised and livid Face, look down on me!

Hail, beauteous Face of Jesus, bent on me, Whom angel choirs adore exultantly! Hail, sweetest Face of Jesus, bruised for me-- Hail, Holy One, whose glorious Face for me Is shorn of beauty on that fatal Tree!

All strength, all freshness, is gone forth from Thee: What wonder! Hath not God afflicted Thee, And is not death himself approaching Thee? O Love! But death hath laid his touch on Thee, And faint and broken features turn to me.

O have they thus maltreated Thee, my own? O have they Thy sweet Face despised, my own? And all for my unworthy sake, my own! O in Thy beauty turn to me, my own; O turn one look of love on me, my own!

In this Thy Passion, Lord, remember me; In this Thy pain, O Love, acknowledge me; The honey of whose lips was shed on me, The milk of whose delights hath strengthened me Whose sweetness is beyond delight for me!

Despise me not, O Love; I long for Thee; Contemn me not, unworthy though I be; But now that death is fast approaching Thee, Incline Thy Head, my Love, my Love, to me, To these poor arms, and let it rest on me!

The holy Passion I would share with Thee, And in Thy dying love rejoice with Thee; Content if by this Cross I die with Thee; Content, Thou knowest, Lord, how willingly Where I have lived to die for love of Thee.

For this Thy bitter death all thanks to Thee, Dear Jesus, and Thy wondrous love for me! O gracious God, so merciful to me, Do as Thy guilty one entreateth Thee, And at the end let me be found with Thee!

When from this life, O Love, Thou callest me, Then, Jesus, be not wanting unto me, But in the dreadful hour of agony, O hasten, Lord, and be Thou nigh to me, Defend, protect, and O deliver me.

When Thou, O God, shalt bid my soul be free, Then, dearest Jesus, show Thyself to me! O condescend to show Thyself to me,-- Upon Thy saving Cross, dear Lord, to me,-- And let me die, my Lord, embracing Thee!

TO THE SACRED HEART

Hail, sacred Heart of God's great Majesty! Hail, sweetest Heart, my heart saluteth Thee! With great desire, O Heart, I seek for Thee, And faint for joy, O Heart, embracing Thee; Then give me leave, O Love, to speak to Thee.

With what sweet love Thou languishedst for me! What pain and torment was that love to Thee! How didst Thou all Thyself exhaust for me! How hast Thou wholly given Thyself to me, That death no longer might have hold of me!

O bitter death and cruel! Can it be Thou darest so to enter greedily Into that cell divine? O can it be The Life of life, that lives there gloriously, Should feel thy bite, O death, and yield to thee?

For Thy death's sake which Thou didst bear for me, When Thou, O sweetest Heart, didst faint for me, O Heart most precious in its agony, See how I yearn, and longing turn to Thee! Yield to my love, and draw me unto Thee!

O sacred Heart, beloved most tenderly, Cleanse Thou my own; more worthy let it be, All hardened as it is with vanity; O make it tender, loving, fearing Thee, And all its icy coldness drive from me.

O sinner as I am, I come to Thee; My very vitals throb and call for Thee; O Love, sweet love, draw hither unto me! O Heart of Love, my heart would ravished be, And sicken with the wound of love for Thee!

Dilate and open, Heart of love, for me, And like a rose of wondrous fragrance be, Sweet Heart of love, united unto me; Anoint and pierce my heart, O Love, with Thee, How can he suffer, Lord, who loveth Thee?

O Heart of Love, who vanquished is by Thee Knows nothing, but beside himself must be; No bounds are set to that sweet liberty, No moderation,--he must fly to Thee, Or die he must of many deaths for Thee.

My living heart, O Love, cries out for Thee; With all its strength, O Love, my soul loves Thee; O Heart of Love, incline Thou unto me, That I with burning love may turn to Thee, And with devoted breast recline on Thee!

In that sweet furnace let me live for Thee, Nor let the sleep of sloth encumber me; O let me sing to Thee and weep to Thee, Adore, and magnify, and honor Thee, And always take my full delight in Thee.

Thou Rose of wondrous fragrance, open wide, And bring my heart into Thy wounded Side, O sweet heart, open! Draw Thy loving bride, All panting with desires intensified, And satisfy her love unsatisfied.

Unite my heart, O Jesus, unto Thine, And let Thy wounded love be found in mine. Ah, if my heart, dear love, be made like Thine O will it not be pierced with darts divine, the sweet reproach of love that thrills through Thine?

O Jesus, draw my heart within Thy Breast, That it may be by Thee alone possessed. O Love, in that sweet pain it would find rest, In that entrancing sorrow would be blest, And love itself in joy upon Thy Breast.

Behold, O Jesus, how it draws to Thee! O call it, that it may remain in Thee! See with what large desire it thirsts for Thee! Reprove it not, O Love; it loves but Thee: Then bid it live--by one sweet taste of Thee!

Ascribed to Saint Bernard, translated by Emily Mary Shapcote

 

Readings

 

In dangers, in doubts, in difficulties, think of Mary, call upon Mary. Let not her name depart from your lips, never suffer it to leave your heart. And that you may obtain the assistance of her prayer, neglect not to walk in her footsteps. With her for guide, you shall never go astray; while invoking her, you shall never lose heart; so long as she is in your mind, you are safe from deception; while she holds your hand, you cannot fall; under her protection you have nothing to fear; if she walks before you, you shall not grow weary; if she shows you favor, you shall reach the goal.

- Saint Bernard of Clairvaux

Love is sufficient of itself; it gives pleasure by itself and because of itself. It is its own merit, its own reward. Love looks for no cause outside itself, no effect beyond itself. Its profit lies in the practice. Of all the movements, sensations and feelings of the soul, love is the only one in which the creature can respond to the Creator and make some sort of similar return however unequal though it be. For when God loves, all he desires is to be loved in return. The sole purpose of his love is to be loved, int he knowledge that those who love him are made happy by their love of him.

- from a sermon by Saint Bernard

Look at that clever calumniator! He begins by fetching a deep sigh, he affects to be humble, and puts on a modest look, and with a voice choking with sobs tries to gloss over the slander which is on the tip of his tongue One would fancy that he expressly assumed a calm and easy demeanor; for when he speaks against his brother, it is in a tender and compassionate tone. I am really hurt, says he, to find that our brother has fallen into such a sin; you all know how much I love him, and how often I have tried to correct him. It is not today that I have noticed his failing; for I should always be on my guard to speak of others, but others have spoken of it too. It would be in vain to disguise the fact; it is only too true, and with tears in my eyes I tell it to you. This poor unfortunate brother has talent, but it must be confessed that he is very guilty, and however great may be our friendship for him, it is impossible to excuse him.

- Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, 24th sermon on the Canticles