Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (1090 – 1153) was the third son of Tescelin Sorrel, a Burgundian noble, and Aleth, who was daughter of Bernard, Lord of Montbard. His parents had seven children, four of whom are declared blessed by the Catholic Church. From an early age, Saint Bernard showed himself devout and studious, and he received an excellent education at the hands of secular canons.
As he matured into a man, God graced St Bernard with great personal attractiveness and wit. His affability of temper made him pleasant company, and his personal holiness stirred faith in many who had contact with him. Proof of this is that when he decided to enter the Benedictine monastery of Citeaux, at the age of twenty-two, thirty-one men followed him there and joined with him. Three years later, St Bernard was sent by his abbot to found a monastery in Champagne. This house eventually became the Abbey of Clairvaux, from which sixty-eight other monasteries had been founded by the time of the saint’s death. These monks had their own charism within the Benedictine tradition and became known as Cistercians.
Saint Bernard fought against the Albigensian heresy, counseled popes and heads of state, wrote treatises in defense of the faith and, upon their request, wrote the rules for the Knights Templar, the warrior monks. In his treatise, In Praise of the New Knighthood, he states the mission of the Templars: “This is, I say, a new kind of knighthood and one unknown to the ages gone by. It ceaselessly wages a twofold war both against flesh and blood and against a spiritual army of evil…”. “Go forth confidently then, you Knights, and repel the foes of the cross of Christ with a stalwart heart!” St Bernard also performed many miracles. One such miracle happened when he was preaching to the Albigensians and foretold to his audience that the ill that were present would be healed upon eating the loaves of bread he had just blessed. And, indeed, it came to pass that many who ate the bread were healed. Saint Bernard died in 1153, was canonised in 1174 and declared a doctor of the Church in 1830.