Saint Bernard of Clairvaux
Saint Bernard of Clairvaux was born into a well to do family in southeastern France. He fell into a deep depression after the loss of his mother and was asking himself what God wanted of him. He decided to dedicate his life to God at 22 while still mourning his mother. He entered an experimental monastery in Cîteaux in the hope of living the Benedictine Rule. Thirty of his family members followed him to the monastery. He was subsequently made an Abbot and sent to Clairvaux to found a new monastery. St. Bernard stamped the Cistercian movement with its distinctive character: sobriety in art and architecture, solemnity in the liturgy, austerity in life, industriousness in labor, strictness in observance of the Rule, and silence pervading all. He participated in Church councils, mediated civil conflicts, inaugurated Crusades, and wrote commentaries on prayer, theology, and Scripture. He became famous as a miraculous healer. Crowds of people lined his route to receive his blessing or to feel his hands press against their skulls.
Bernard’s authentic and tender devotion to the Virgin Mary was expressed sublimely in his writings. For his Marian devotion, eloquence, and contemplative spirit, Bernard substitutes for Beatrice as Dante takes the final steps of his mythical voyage toward God in the Divine Comedy. In the blazing fire of pure love that is the Beatific Vision, Bernard is at Dante’s side as their eyes drink in the vision of a splendid, holographic, white rose emanating like a vision from the Godhead’s bright light. The Queen of this mystical white rose is the Virgin, and “faithful Bernard” gazes in silent admiration at the woman he loves so dearly. Saint Bernard was canonized in 1174 and named a Doctor of the Church in 1830.