Bernard of Clairvaux (ca 1090-Aug 20, 1153) was the leading light of the Cistercian Benedictine reform of the 12th century. Like many, perhaps most saints, he was a very complex, even contradictory person. A member of a semi-eremitical monastic community, he traveled widely, preaching against church corruption and advising popes. Author of a significant commentary on the Song of Songs, he also was an enthusiastic supporter of the Second Crusade and provided the nucleus for the rule of life of the Knights Templar. By the end of his century, there were over 300 Cistercian monasteries, many of which he founded. There have been big retrenchments in the intervening centuries, but his spiritual descendants--Thomas Merton being perhaps the best-known--are still going strong.
The literature by and about Bernard is huge, so perhaps the best way of getting some idea what he was like is through a few quotes, which I took the liberty of lifting from this site.
- Hell is full of good wishes.
- I know by myself how incomprehensible God is, seeing I cannot comprehend the parts of my own being.
- Nothing can work me damage except myself. The harm that I sustain I carry about with me, and never am a real sufferer but by my own fault.
- Religion brought forth riches, and the daughter devoured the mother.
- The tears of penitents are the wine of angels.
- We find rest in those we love, and we provide a resting place for those who love us.
- You will find something far greater in the woods than you will find in books. Stones and trees will teach you that which you will never learn from masters.
- Who loves me will love my dog also.