Bernard was born in 1090, to a noble family in Troyes, France. After the death of his mother, Bernard entered a local Cistercian monastery, despite the opposition of his aristocratic family. His holiness and capabilities were such that as a young man he was sent to found an abbey in a desolate and wild region of France. This monastery was to become known as Clairvaux.
Bernard’s monastery was to become the model for many similar institutions throughout Europe. St. Bernard issued a new set of rules for his monks, which commanded them to live a life of manual labor and prayer. Clairvaux grew so rapidly that Bernard was soon establishing daughter houses all over Europe.
Soon, St. Bernard was regarded as the most important churchman in France because of his holiness, and because of his achievements at Clairvaux. Popes asked for his advice, and the saint played a very important part in both the First and Second Crusade. Saint Bernard also helped to establish the Knights’ Templar Order. St. Bernard was also a great theologian, and influenced the development of Catholic doctrine.
St. Bernard died in 1153, in his beloved Clairvaux. He was canonized by the Pope some years later.
Bernard had a reputation as a miracle worker during his lifetime.
Once, while Saint Bernard was saying Mass, a blind man suddenly had his sight restored, to the astonishment of all. Saint Bernard calmly went on saying Mass, which was typical of him.
Once, a child with a maimed arm was brought to him. Saint Bernard blessed the child and prayed over his arm. Suddenly, the child was cured, his arm now perfectly healthy.
Despite his active role in both Church and politics, he remained very much a monk. He believed that every Christian should be focused on Christ and the Virgin Mary. The earthly world was dismissed by St Bernard. He believed that a life of simple manual labor brought one closer to God than learning:
“Trees and woods can teach you more things than all the masters.”
He placed great emphasis on love, and believed that it brought a Christian nearer to God:
“I love because I love: I love in order that I may love.”
St. Bernard was one of the most important figures in the medieval church.