Ru 2:1-3, 8-11; 4:13-17
Naomi had a prominent kinsman named Boaz,
of the clan of her husband Elimelech.
Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi,
"Let me go and glean ears of grain in the field
of anyone who will allow me that favor."
Naomi said to her, "Go, my daughter," and she went.
The field she entered to glean after the harvesters
happened to be the section belonging to Boaz
of the clan of Elimelech.
Boaz said to Ruth, "Listen, my daughter!
Do not go to glean in anyone else's field;
you are not to leave here.
Stay here with my women servants.
Watch to see which field is to be harvested, and follow them;
I have commanded the young men to do you no harm.
When you are thirsty, you may go and drink from the vessels
the young men have filled."
Casting herself prostrate upon the ground, Ruth said to him,
"Why should I, a foreigner, be favored with your notice?"
Boaz answered her:
"I have had a complete account of what you have done
for your mother-in-law after your husband's death;
you have left your father and your mother and the land of your birth,
and have come to a people whom you did not know previously."
Boaz took Ruth.
When they came together as man and wife,
the LORD enabled her to conceive and she bore a son.
Then the women said to Naomi,
"Blessed is the LORD who has not failed
to provide you today with an heir!
May he become famous in Israel!
He will be your comfort and the support of your old age,
for his mother is the daughter-in-law who loves you.
She is worth more to you than seven sons!"
Naomi took the child, placed him on her lap, and became his nurse.
And the neighbor women gave him his name,
at the news that a grandson had been born to Naomi.
They called him Obed.
He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.
Ps 128:1b-2, 3, 4, 5
R. (4) See how the Lord blesses those who fear him.
Blessed are you who fear the LORD,
who walk in his ways!
For you shall eat the fruit of your handiwork;
blessed shall you be, and favored.
R. See how the Lord blesses those who fear him.
You wife shall be like a fruitful vine
in the recesses of your home;
Your children like olive plants
around your table.
R. See how the Lord blesses those who fear him.
Behold, thus is the man blessed
who fears the LORD.
R. See how the Lord blesses those who fear him.
The LORD bless you from Zion:
may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem
all the days of your life.
R. See how the Lord blesses those who fear him.
Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, saying,
“The scribes and the Pharisees
have taken their seat on the chair of Moses.
Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you,
but do not follow their example.
For they preach but they do not practice.
They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry
and lay them on people’s shoulders,
but they will not lift a finger to move them.
All their works are performed to be seen.
They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels.
They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues,
greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi.’
As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi.’
You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers.
Call no one on earth your father;
you have but one Father in heaven.
Do not be called ‘Master’;
you have but one master, the Christ.
The greatest among you must be your servant.
Whoever exalts himself will be humbled;
but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”
Feast: August 20
Bernard, son of Tescelin Sorrel, and Aleth, daughter of the lord of Montbard, was born in the family castle of Fontaines, near Dijon, in Burgundy. His pious French mother offered all her seven children—six sons and one daughter—to God at birth and devoted herself to their upbringing. According to the standards of that day, they were very well educated, the sons learning Latin and verse-making even before being trained in the profession of arms. Bernard was sent to Chatillon-on-the-Seine, to study in a college of secular canons. At school he gave evidence of a strong intellect as well as of a genuinely religious nature. During this period the death of his mother, to whom he was deeply attached, threw him into a state of prolonged and acute depression. When Bernard finished his schooling at nineteen or thereabouts, he had, in addition to the advantages of noble birth and natural talent, the sweetness of temper, wit, and personal charm that make for popularity. Subject to strong temptations of the flesh, he often considered giving up the world, and even forsaking the study of literature, which was one of his greatest pleasures. He felt attracted to the Benedictine monastery at Citeaux, founded fifteen years before by Robert of Molesme, Alberic, and Stephen Harding. One day Bernard knelt in prayer in a wayside church, to ask God's guidance as to his future. On arising all doubt had vanished and he was resolved to follow the strict Cistercian way of life. His uncle, Gaudry, a valiant fighting man, and Bernard's younger brothers, Bartholomew and Andrew, declared they would accompany him, and an appeal was made to their eldest brother, Guy. He, however, had a wife and two children; but when his wife soon after entered a convent, he also joined them. Gerard, another brother, was a soldier, engrossed in his calling; still, after being wounded and taken prisoner, he also heard God's call, and on his release followed the others. Hugh of Macon was also won over, and others who had previously given no thought to the religious life. Such was Bernard's eloquence that within a few weeks he had succeeded in persuading thirty-one Burgundian nobles to go with him to Citeaux. Bernard and his brothers gathered to bid their father farewell and ask his blessing. Only one son was left behind, Nivard, the youngest, and as the party rode away, Guy called to him, "Farewell, little Nivard! You will have all our lands and estates for yourself." "Oh," answered the boy, "then you are taking Heaven and leaving me only the earth! The division is too unequal!" Such was the pervasive spiritual atmosphere of this age of faith.
When they at length arrived at Citeaux near Easter, 1112, there had been no new novices for several years, and Stephen Harding, the abbot, received them with open arms. Bernard, now twenty-two, wished to live hidden and forgotten, concerned only with God. From the start, he trained himself to obey the command he later gave to all postulants, "If you desire to live in this house, leave your body behind; only spirits can enter here." At the end of a year, he and his companions—all save one—made their profession and continued their cloistered life. When Bernard was unable to reap the grain as fast as the others, he was assigned to lighter work, but he prayed God to give him strength to use a scythe properly, and soon did as well as the best. He used to say, "Our fathers built their monasteries in damp, unwholesome places, so that monks might have the uncertainty of life more sharply before their eyes." The Cistercians had in fact chosen swampy, unproductive lands, but their diligence was rapidly transforming them into fertile fields, gardens, and pastures. In 1113 Stephen founded the monastery of La Ferte, and in 1114 that of Pontigny. The Count of Troyes offered a site on his great estates for a third new monastery Stephen, aware of Bernard's exceptional abilities, appointed him abbot, and ordered him to take twelve monks, including his own brothers, and found a house in the diocese of Langres, in Champagne. They settled in the Valley of Wormwood, which had once been a retreat for robbers. Here they cleared a piece of land, and, with the help of the people round about, built themselves a plain dwelling.
The land was poor and the monks lived through a period of extreme hardship. Their bread was of the coarsest barley; wild herbs or boiled beech leaves sometimes served as vegetables. Also, Bernard was at first so severe in his discipline that the monks, though obedient, began to be discouraged. Their apathy made him realize his fault, and as a penalty he condemned himself to a long silence. At length he was bidden by a vision to start preaching again. He now took care that food should be more plentiful, though it was still coarse and simple. The fame of the house and its holy abbot soon spread through that part of France. The number of monks grew to one hundred and thirty. The monastery was given the name of Clairvaux.
Bernard, a prey to many anxieties, suffered from stomach trouble, but he never complained or took advantage of an indulgence for the sick. In 1118 he became so ill that his life was in danger. One of the powerful ecclesiastics of the time, William of Champeaux, bishop of Chalons, recognized in the ailing abbot a predestined leader. He obtained from the Cistercian chapter held in that year at Citeaux the authority to govern him for twelve months as his superior. Knowing that Bernard required rest and quiet, he placed him in a little house outside the monastic enclosure at Clairvaux, with orders not to follow the rule and to free his mind from all concerns of the community.
Bernard, after living on a special diet and under a physician's care for this period, returned to the monastery in improved health. His old father and young Nivard had by then followed him there, and received their habits at his hands.
The four first daughter houses of Citeaux, namely, La Ferte, Pontigny, Clairvaux, and Morimond, founded in their turn other houses, Clairvaux having the most numerous offshoots. In 1121 Bernard performed his first miracle. While singing Mass he restored to Josbert de la Ferte, a relative of his who had been stricken dumb, the power of speech. The man was enabled to confess before he died, three days later, and to make retribution for many acts of injustice. There are also accounts of sick persons whom Bernard cured by making the sign of the cross over them, all attested to by truthful eyewitnesses. Another story has to do with the church at Foigny which was infested with pestilential flies; Bernard pronounced an excommunication upon them, at which all died. This occurrence gave rise to the old French saying, "the curse of the flies of Foigny."
Because of his continued poor health, the general chapter relieved Bernard of work in the fields and directed him to devote himself to preaching and writing. The change gave him an opportunity to produce a treatise on Degrees of Humility and Pride, which contains an excellent analysis of human character. In 1122, at the request of the archbishop of Paris, he went up and preached to the university students who were candidates for Holy Orders. Some of them were so deeply impressed by his preaching that they accompanied him back to Clairvaux. A band of German knights who stopped to visit at Clairvaux returned later to ask admission to the order. Their conversion was the more remarkable as their main interest in life up to that time had been wars and tournaments. Centuries later, in his Art of Preaching, Erasmus wrote, Bernard is an eloquent preacher, much more by nature than by art; he is full of charm and vivacity, and knows how to reach and move the affections." Bernard was always willing to receive monks who came from other orders or to release any of his who wished to transfer to another religious institution in the hope of attaining greater perfection.
Notwithstanding his longing for a retired life, for years on end Bernard was traveling about Europe on missions connected with the Church. His reputation for learning and sanctity and his talent as a mediator became so famous that princes called on him to decide their disputes, bishops asked his opinion on problems involving their churches, and popes accepted his counsel. It was said that he governed the churches of the West from his isolated monastery at Citeaux. Once he wrote that his life was "overrun everywhere by anxieties, suspicions, cares. There is scarcely an hour free from the crowd of discordant applicants, and the troubles and cares of their business. I have no power to stop their coming and cannot refuse to see them, and they do not leave me even time to pray."
The election of unworthy men to the episcopacy and to other Church offices troubled Bernard deeply, and he fought it with all his might. A monk, his enemies said, should stay in his cloister and not bother himself with such matters. A monk, he replied, was as much a soldier of Christ as other Christians were, and had a special duty to defend the He of God's sanctuary. Bernard's outspoken censures had their effect in changing the way of life of several high churchmen. Henry, archbishop of Sens, and Stephen, bishop of Paris, renounced their attendance at court and their secular style of living.
Abbot Suger of St. Denis, who as regent of France lived for a time in great state, now gave up his worldly habits, resigned his secular posts, and busied himself reestablishing discipline in his own abbey. Bernard wrote to the dean of Languedoc: "You may imagine that what belongs to the Church belongs to you, while you officiate there. But you are mistaken; for though it is reasonable that one who serves the altar should live by the altar, yet it must not be to promote either his luxury or his pride.
Whatever is taken beyond what is needed for bare nourishment and simple plain clothing is sacrilege and theft." Bernard also had a sharp exchange with Peter the Venerable, archabbot of Cluny, in which he criticized Peter's way of life and that of the Cluniacs.
Bernard was obliged to assist at many important synods. He also helped to found the celebrated order of the Knights Templars. A serious schism followed the death of Pope Honorius II in 1130. Innocent II was chosen pope by a majority of the cardinals, but simultaneously a minority faction elected one of their number, Cardinal Peter de Leone, who took the name of Anacletus. An ambitious and worldly man, Anacletus succeeded in getting the strongholds of Rome into his hands, and Pope Innocent fled to Pisa. A council of bishops was held soon afterwards at Etampes. Bernard attended and as a result of his vigorous defense, Innocent was recognized by the council. The new Pope soon went to France, where he was splendidly received by King Louis VI.
Bernard went with him to Chartres, and there he met King Henry of England, who was also persuaded to acknowledge Innocent; then the party continued on to Germany, and Bernard was present at Innocent's; meeting with the Emperor Lothaire II, who offered recognition if he were given the right to invest new bishops. Bernard's remonstrances caused Lothaire to withdraw his condition, which, indeed, Innocent had already promptly rejected.
In 1131 Pope Innocent visited Clairvaux. He was received by a simple procession of monks. At table the food consisted of coarse bread, vegetables and herbs, with one small fish for the Pope, which the others, writes the chronicler, had to view from a distance. The following year Bernard accompanied the Pope back to Italy, reconciled him with several cities, and went on with him to Rome. Innocent then made him legate to Germany, and along the way north Bernard preached in the Pope's behalf and converted sinners. Having brought more harmony to the Church in Germany, Bernard returned to Italy to assist at the council of Pisa. There it was voted to excommunicate schismatics. Later he went to Milan and persuaded the people to become reconciled with both Innocent and the emperor. The citizens helped him to establish at nearby Chiaravalle the first Cistercian monastery in Italy. Returning to Clairvaux, he took with him a number of postulants for admission, among them a young canon of Pisa, Peter Bernard, later to become Pope Eugenius III. As his first task after arriving at the monastery, the future pontiff was asked to stoke the fire in the calefactory.
A year before Bernard had been called into Aquitaine, where William, the duke of that province, was persecuting the adherents of Pope Innocent, and had expelled the bishops of Poitiers and Limoges. William was a prince of great wealth, gigantic stature, and exceptional ability, who from his youth on had been irreverent and aggressive.
Bernard's prayers and persuasion having failed to prevail on William to restore the bishops, he used a more powerful weapon. He went to the church to say Mass, while the duke and other schismatics stood at the door, as under excommunication. The kiss of peace before the Communion had been given, when suddenly Bernard laid the wafer of the Host on the paten, turned, and holding it high advanced with it to the door, his eyes flashing and his countenance all on fire. "Hitherto," he said, "I have entreated and besought you, and you have despised me. Other servants of God have joined their prayers to mine, and you have not regarded them. Now the Son of the Virgin, the Lord and Head of that Church which you persecute, comes in person to see if you will repent. He is your judge, at whose name every knee bows, in Heaven, in Earth, and in Hell. Into His hands your obstinate soul will one day fall. Will you despise Him? Will you scorn Him as you have done His servants?" Unable to bear more, the terrified duke fell on his face. Bernard lifted him up, and bade him salute the bishop of Poitiers. The duke did as bidden, abandoned the schism, and restored the bishop to his see. William afterwards founded a new Cistercian monastery and went on pilgrimage to Compostella, in the course of which he died.
Through Bernard's efforts other schisms were healed. The death of Anacletus in 1138 opened the way to peace, for though his adherents elected a successor, Bernard's preaching in Rome won them over to Innocent. After these valiant labors, Bernard returned to Clairvaux. He refused five bishoprics which were offered to him in order to concentrate on preaching to his own monks; his sermons on the Song of Songs became particularly famous.
We now come to one of the famous controversies of medieval times. Bernard was recognized as the most eloquent and influential man of his age. Next to him in stature was the brilliant and unfortunate teacher, Peter Abelard, who was a far greater scholar than Bernard. It was perhaps inevitable that the two should clash, for they represented opposite currents of thought. Bernard was a defender of traditional authority, of "faith not as an opinion but as a certitude"; Abelard spoke for the new rationalism, represented by Anselm, and for the free exercise of human reason. In 1121 Abelard's orthodoxy had been questioned, and a synod had condemned him to burn his book on the Trinity. Forced to keep away from Paris, where he enjoyed great popularity as a teacher, he had lived as a hermit for many years. He had returned to resume his lectures, and in 1139 William of St. Thierry, a Cistercian, denounced him as a heretic to the legate of the Holy See, and also to Bernard, saying they were the only men powerful enough to crush the error. Bernard had three private talks with Abelard, in which the latter promised to withdraw what was dangerous in his views, but he remained defiant. In 1141 at a council at Sens, Abelard was formally arraigned, charged with heresy on a number of counts. Bernard was at first unwilling to appear; but when Abelard's supporters claimed that he was afraid to meet the recalcitrant teacher face to face, he felt obliged to attend. Abelard listened to the charges drawn up by Bernard, and refused to make a defense, though told he might do so. He felt that the bishops were solidly massed against him, so with an appeal to the Pope he left the assemblage.
The bishops then condemned as heretical seventeen propositions taken from Abelard's writings, sentenced him to silence, and wrote an account of the proceedings for Pope Innocent, who confirmed the sentence. Stopping off at the monastery of Cluny on his way to Rome, Abelard heard of the Pope's confirmation. By this time he was completely broken in health and spirit; his death followed in April, 1142. Bernard has been severely criticized for his uncompromising attitude, but he felt that Abelard's brilliance made him extremely dangerous. He wrote to the Pope that Abelard was "trying to reduce to nothing the merits of Christian faith, since he seems himself able by human reason to comprehend God altogether."
One of Bernard's great friends was the Irish bishop, Malachy (Maelmhaedhoc l'Morgair), a zealous reformer of monasticism in his native isle. After retiring from the see of Armagh, Malachy came to Clairvaux, and died there some years later in Bernard's arms. He had brought a number of young men with him from Ireland to be trained under Bernard, and in 1142 the first Cistercian monastery was established in Ireland. In 1145 that same Peter Bernard of Pisa who had followed Bernard to Clairvaux in 1138 was elected Pope, taking the name of Eugenius III. Bernard felt a fatherly concern for Eugenius, a shy and retiring man, unaccustomed to public life. For his guidance he wrote the most important of his works, <On Consideration>. In it he impressed on Eugenius the varied obligations of his office, but reminded him to reserve time every day for self-examination and contemplation, a duty more vital than any official business. There was danger, he wrote, of becoming so preoccupied as to fall into forgetfulness of God; the reformation of the Church must begin at the very top, for if the Pope fails, the whole Church is dragged down. This book has been in high repute with the clergy ever since Bernard's time.
Arnold of Brescia, a pupil of Abelard, now attracted Bernard's notice—and his flaming opposition. Arnold had been condemned with Abelard by the council of Sens, but four years later, in Rome, he led a movement of the commune of citizens to overthrow the Pope and set up a government on the model of the ancient Roman republic. His stirring up of the populace compelled Eugenius to flee the city for a time. There were uprisings elsewhere against the temporal authority of the bishops, but the whole movement was confused and badly organized. Arnold was tried and condemned by the Church, and later executed by Emperor Frederick Barbarossa.
During this time the Albigensian heresy, with all its startling social and moral implications, had been making alarming progress in the south of France. In 1145 the papal legate to France, Cardinal Alberic, asked Bernard to go down to Languedoc. III and weak though he was, Bernard obeyed, stopping to preach along the way Geoffrey, his secretary, accompanied him, and relates various miracles to which he was an eyewitness. At a village in Perigord Bernard blessed with the sign of the cross some loaves of bread, saying, "By this you shall know the truth of our doctrines and the falsehood of what the heretics teach, if such as are sick among you recover their health on eating these loaves." The bishop of Chartres, who stood near Bernard, afraid of the possible outcome, added, "That is, if they eat with a right faith, they will be cured." But Bernard insisted on his own statement, "whoever tastes will be cured." And a number of sick persons were, in fact, made well after eating the bread. Although the supporters of the heresy were stubborn and violent, especially at Toulouse and Albi, in a short time he had apparently restored orthodoxy. Twenty-five years later, however, the Albigensians had a stronger hold on the country than ever. The great St. Dominic, whose story appears later in this volume, then came to win back the country once more.
On Christmas Day, 1144, the Seljuk Turks captured Edessa, chief city of one of the Christian principalities set up by the First Crusade. Appeals for help went at once to Europe, for the position of all Christians in Syria was jeopardized. King Louis VII of France announced his intention of leading a new crusade, and the Pope commissioned Bernard to preach the Holy War. Bernard began at Vezelay on Palm Sunday, 1146.
Queen Eleanor and a company of nobles, the first to take the cross, were followed by such a throng that the supply of cloth badges was exhausted and Bernard tore strips from his own habit to make more. Having roused France, he wrote to the rulers and peoples of England, Italy, Sicily, Spain, Poland, Denmark, Moravia, Bohemia, and Bavaria, and went in person to Germany. Bernard had to deal there with a half-crazy monk, who in his name was inciting the populace to massacre Jews. He then made a triumphant tour through the Rhineland. The Emperor Conrad III took the cross, and set out in May, 1147; Louis of France soon followed.
This Second Crusade was a miserable failure. Conrad's army was cut to pieces crossing the mountains of Asia Minor. Louis was diverted to the East and his forces were exhausted by a futile siege of Damascus. The chief reason for the collapse of the great enterprise lay within the crusaders themselves. Many were led by sordid motives; they committed every kind of lawless act on their march. Bernard, because he had seemed to promise success, was bitterly criticized. In reply he declared that he had trusted the Divine mercy to bless a crusade undertaken for the honor of His Name, but that the army's sins had brought catastrophe; yet who could judge of its true success or failure?
"How is it," he asked, "that the rashness of mortals dares condemn what they cannot understand?"
Soon after the return of the defeated crusaders, Bernard started to organize a third expedition to deliver the Holy Land from the Turks, working this time with Abbot Suger, who had opposed the previous venture. But early in 1151 Suger died; France was again on the verge of civil war and the project was dropped. Pope Eugenius died in 1153, and that same year Bernard was taken with his last illness. He had long dwelt in Heaven in desire, though he had ascribed his desire to weakness rather than piety.
"The saints," he said, "were moved to pray for death out of a longing to see Christ, but I am driven hence by scandals and evil." In the spring of 1153 the archbishop of Trier implored him to go to Metz and try to make peace between the citizens of Metz and the duke of Lorraine, who had subjugated them. Forgetting his infirmities, Bernard set out for Lorraine, and there prevailed on both sides to lay down their arms and later to accept the treaty he drew up for them.
Back at Clairvaux after performing this final work of mediation, the abbot's health failed rapidly. With his spiritual sons gathered round him, he received the Last Sacraments. He comforted them, saying that the unprofitable servant should not occupy a place uselessly, that the barren tree should be rooted up. On August 20 God took him. Bernard was sixty-three years old, had been abbot for thirty-eight years, and had seen sixty-eight monasteries established by his men from Clairvaux. According to one historian, he had "carried the twelfth century on his shoulders." Doctor Mellifluus, the Honey-Sweet Doctor, as he was called for his eloquence, had been the counselor of prelates and the reformer of disciplines; his writings have continued to inspire the faithful. Although he lived after Anselm of Canterbury, the great scholastic who used reason as a means to clarify faith, Bernard was on the side of the ancient doctors who trusted wholly to Scripture and faith and mystical experience. For the outstanding excellence of his life and works he is reckoned the last of the Church Fathers. He was canonized in 1174, twenty-one years after his death. His relics are at Clairvaux, his skull in the cathedral of Troyes; his emblems are a pen, bees, and instruments of the Passion.
<Jesus, Thou Joy of Loving Hearts>
Jesus, thou joy of loving hearts, Thou fount of life, thou Light of men, From the poor bliss that earth imparts, We turn unfilled to thee again.
Thy truth unchanged hath ever stood; Thou savest those who on thee call; To them that seek thee, thou art good, To them that find thee, all in all.
We taste thee, O thou living Bread, And long to feast upon thee still; We drink of thee the Fountain-head, And thirst our souls from thee to fill.
Our restless spirits yearn for thee, Where'er our changeful lot is cast; Glad, when thy gracious smile we see, Blest, when our faith can hold thee fast.
O Jesus, ever with us stay; Make all our moments calm and bright, Chase the dark night of sin away; Shed o'er the world thy holy light.
<Excerpts from> The Steps of Humility
iii, 6.... <We seek truth in ourselves, in our neighbors>, and in its own nature: In ourselves, judging ourselves; in our neighbors, sympathizing with their ills; in its own nature, contemplating it with a pure heart. First, let the Truth itself teach you that you should seek it in your neighbors before seeking it in its own nature. Later, you will see why you should seek it in yourself before seeking it in your neighbors. For in the list of the Beatitudes which He enumerated in his sermon, He placed the merciful before the pure in heart. The merciful quickly grasp the truth in their neighbors, extending their own feelings to them and conforming themselves to them through love, so that they feel their joys and troubles as their own. They are weak with the weak; they burn with the offended. "They rejoice with them that do rejoice and weep with them that weep." After the spiritual vision has been purified by this brotherly love, they enjoy the contemplation of truth in its own nature, and then bear others' ills for love of it. But those who do not unite themselves with their brethren in this way, but on the contrary either revile those who weep or disparage those who rejoice, not feeling in themselves that which is in others, because they are not similarly situated-how can they grasp the truth in their neighbors? For the popular proverb well applies to them: "The healthy do not know how the sick feel, nor the full how the hungry suffer." But sick sympathize with sick, and hungry with hungry, the more closely the more they are alike. For just as pure truth is seen only with a pure heart, so a brother's misery is truly felt only with a miserable heart.
But in order to have a miserable heart because of another's misery, you must first know your own; so that you may find your neighbor's mind in your own and know from yourself how to help him, after the example of our Saviour, who willed His passion in order to learn compassion, his misery to learn commiseration. For just as it is written of him, <Yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered>, so also he learned mercy in the same way. Not that he did not know how to be merciful before, he whose mercy is from everlasting to everlasting; he knew it by nature from eternity, but learned it in time by experience....
9. I do not say he became any wiser through this experience, but he seemed to be nearer, so that the feeble sons of Adam, whom he was not ashamed to make and call his brethren, should not hesitate to commit their infirmities to him who could cure them, having suffered the same things. Wherefore Isaiah calls him a <man of sorrows>, and <acquainted with grief>, And the Apostle says, <For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities>, and explains this by adding, <but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.>
For the blessed God, Son of the blessed God, in that form in which he thought it not robbery to be equal with the Father, that is, passionless, before he had made himself of no reputation and taken upon him the form of a servant, since he had not undergone misery or submission, did not know mercy or obedience by experience. He knew them intuitively, but not empirically. But when he had made himself not only lower than his own dignity but even a little lower than the angels, who are themselves passionless by grace, not by nature, even to that form in which he could undergo suffering and submission, which he could not do in his own form, as was said; then he learned mercy in suffering and obedience in submission. Through this experience, however, not his knowledge, as I said, but our boldness was increased, when he from whom we had long been astray was brought nearer to us by this sort of unhappy wisdom. For when should we have dared to approach him, remaining in his impassivity? But now we are urged by the Apostle <to come boldly into the throne of grace> of him who, we know from another verse, <hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows>; and because of his own passion we are sure of his compassion for us.. . .
12. Since then you see that Christ in one person has two natures, one by which he always was, the other by which he began to be, and always knew everything in his eternal essence but temporally experienced many things in his temporal essence; why do you hesitate to grant that, as he began in time to be in the flesh, so also he began to know the ills of the flesh by that kind of knowledge which the weakness of the flesh teaches? Our first parents would have been wiser and happier to have remained ignorant of that kind of knowledge, since they could only attain it by folly and misery.
But God, their maker, seeking again what had perished, accompanied his creatures in pity. There whither they had fallen so pathetically, he also came down sympathetically, willing to experience in himself what they justly suffered for defying him, not because of a similar curiosity, but because of marvelous love, not to remain miserable with the miserable but to become pitiful and free the pitiable. Become pitiful, I say, not with that pity which he, ever blessed, had from eternity, but with that which he learned through sorrow, when in our form. And the labor of love which he began through the former, he finished in the latter, not because he could not finish it in the one, but because he could not fulfill our needs without the other. Each one was necessary, but the latter was more human. Device of ineffable love ! How could we conceive that marvelous pity produced by no previous pain? How could we imagine that superhuman compassion not preceded by passion but coexistent with impassivity? Yet if that pity free from pain had not come first, he would never have thought of this pity which is born of pain.
(<The Steps of Humility> trans. by G. B. Burch, Loeb Classical Library.)
l Citeaux or Cistertium was some sixteen miles from Dijon. Cisterdans have subsequently been divided into two Observances, the Common and the Strict. The latter, popularly known u the Trappists, requires perpetual silence except in cases of necessity, and abstinence from flesh, fish, and eggs, except in illness. Both Observances are rigidly cloistered and engage in manual labor, chiefly agricultural.
2 Suger and his abbey are both famous in French history. The abbey was founded by Dagobert I on the spot where St. Denis, the Apostle of Paris, was interred, a few miles north of Paris. As the burial place of kings and princes, it became one of the most powerful abbeys in France. Suger was an able and trusted adviser of the King. He began the rebuilding of the abbey in the then new Gothic style.
3 Peter the Venerable of the monastery of Cluny was a reformer of the Cluniac Order, but his zeal did not halt its decline, which proceeded rapidly after his time. It had been founded in 910 at Cluny, in eastern France, and by Bernard's time had spread to all parts of Europe and the Holy Land. During the two and a half centuries when it flourished, its influence was potent, and the authority of its abbot stood next to that of the pope. It was organized on the principle that performance of the Divine Office should be well-nigh the sole occupation of its monks, and all services were carried out with impressive ritual and splendor.
4 The Knights Templars, or Poor Knights of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon, was one of the three great military and religious orders founded in the twelfth century for the defense of the Christian kingdom of Jerusalem and the protection of pilgrims to the Holy Land. The others were the Teutonic knights and the Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem, later called the Knights of Malta. The Templars were an order of warrior monks of the Rule of St. Benedict, much praised at the outset for disciplining and converting the rabble of "rogues and impious men, robbers and committers of sacrilege, perjurors and adulterers" who streamed eastward more for gain and adventure than for any religious purpose. Before Bernard's death the Templars were established in all parts of Latin Christendom and had grown fabulously rich
5 The calefactory was a room with a fire in it for warming oneself in winter. The only other fires in most medieval monasteries were in the kitchen (generally out of bounds for the community), the infirmary, and, perhaps, the guest house. The cells, church, corridors, library, scriptorium, etc., were unheated.
6 Compostella was the site of a famous pilgrimage church in the province of Galicia in northwestern Spain. According to legend, the Apostle James the Great preached the Gospel there and the church contained his bones. With Toledo it remained a stronghold of Christian faith when most of Spain was ruled by Mohammedans.
7 Of the many accounts of Abelard's life, Helen Waddell's novel, <Peter Abdard>, is one of the best for the clarity of its treatment of the theological controversies of the time.
8 This heresy, a revival of the Manichaeism of Augustine's day, flourished in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. The Albigensians taught a dualistic doctrine, namely, that there were two opposing spirits in the universe, good and evil, and that all matter was evil and all spirit good. They denied the resurrection of the body. Their name was derived from the district of Albi in Languedoc. For a further account of this heresy, see below, <St. Dominic>, p. 225.
9 Crusaders were distinguished by cloth badges in the shape of a cross worn on their shoulders.
Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, Abbot, Doctor of the Church. Celebration of Feast Day is August 20.
1, 3 - 6, 14 - 16, 22
1 In the days when the judges ruled there was a famine in the land, and a certain man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons. 3 But Elim'elech, the husband of Na'omi, died, and she was left with her two sons. 4 These took Moabite wives; the name of the one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. They lived there about ten years; 5 and both Mahlon and Chil'ion died, so that the woman was bereft of her two sons and her husband. 6 Then she started with her daughters-in-law to return from the country of Moab, for she had heard in the country of Moab that the LORD had visited his people and given them food. 14 Then they lifted up their voices and wept again; and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her. 15 And she said, "See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law." 16 But Ruth said, "Entreat me not to leave you or to return from following you; for where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God; 22 So Na'omi returned, and Ruth the Moabitess her daughter-in-law with her, who returned from the country of Moab. And they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest.
146: 5 - 10
5 Happy is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God, 6 who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them; who keeps faith for ever; 7 who executes justice for the oppressed; who gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets the prisoners free; 8 the LORD opens the eyes of the blind. The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down; the LORD loves the righteous. 9 The LORD watches over the sojourners, he upholds the widow and the fatherless; but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin. 10 The LORD will reign for ever, thy God, O Zion, to all generations. Praise the LORD!
22: 34 - 40
34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sad'ducees, they came together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question, to test him. 36 "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?" 37 And he said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets."
As by the Word of God, Jesus our Savior was made Flesh and had both Flesh and Blood for our salvation, so also the food which has been blessed by the word of prayer instituted by Him is both the Flesh and Blood of Jesus Incarnate.
-- St Justin Martyr
St. John Eudes
Feastday: August 19
John Eudes was born at Ri, Normandy, France, on November 14, 1601, the son of a farmer. He went to the Jesuit college at Caen when he was 14, and despite his parents' wish that he marry, joined the Congregation of the Oratory of France in 1623. He studied at Paris and at Aubervilliers, was ordained in 1625, and worked as a volunteer, caring for the victims of the plagues that struck Normandy in 1625 and 1631, and spent the next decade giving Missions, building a reputation as an outstanding preacher and confessor and for his opposition to Jansenism. He became interested in helping fallen women, and in 1641, with Madeleine Lamy, founded a refuge for them in Caen under the direction of the Visitandines. He resigned from the Oratorians in 1643 and founded the Congregation of Jesus and Mary (the Eudists) at Caen, composed of secular priests not bound by vows but dedicated to upgrading the clergy by establishing effective seminaries and to preaching missions. His foundation was opposed by the Oratorians and the Jansenists, and he was unable to obtain Papal approval for it, but in 1650, the Bishop of Coutances invited him to establish a seminary in that diocese. The same year the sisters at his refuge in Caen left the Visitandines and were recognized by the Bishop of Bayeux as a new congregation under the name of Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of the Refuge.
John founded seminaries at Lisieux in 1653 and Rouen in 1659 and was unsuccessful in another attempt to secure Papal approval of his congregation, but in 1666 the Refuge sisters received Pope Alexander III's approval as an institute to reclaim and care for penitent wayward women. John continued giving missions and established new seminaries at Evreux in 1666 and Rennes in 1670. He shared with St. Mary Margaret Alacoque the honor of initiating devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus (he composed the Mass for the Sacred Heart in 1668) and the Holy Heart of Mary, popularizing the devotions with his "The Devotion to the Adorable Heart of Jesus" (1670) and "The Admirable Heart of the Most Holy Mother of God", which he finished a month before his death at Caen on August 19th. He was canonized in 1925. His feast day is August 19th.
St. Helena WIDOW C. 330
Feast: August 18
Helena, mother of Constantine I, called the Great, was born of humble parents in the Roman province of Moesia, a land on the western shore of the Black Sea. Constantine's father, Constantius Chlorus, who had risen to the throne by way of military success, was also a native of that region. According to St. Ambrose, Helena was an inn-keeper when Constantius lifted her from her lowly position and made her his consort. There exists a legend that she was the daughter of a British king, but there is no historical foundation for this. It is, however, true that Constantius spent some time in Britain putting down a rebellion among the Picts and Scots, and died at York, but it is thought that he had cast off Helena and taken a new wife long before this time. On the death of his father, the young Constantine brought his mother to live at court at Byzantium, the capital of the Eastern Empire. He honored her by giving her the Roman title of Augusta and also had coins struck bearing her image. Everyone knows the story of Constantine's dramatic conversion. The Church historian, Eusebius, whose <Life of Constantine> is a chief source of information for the period, relates that on the eve of a great battle in the year 312 Constantine had a dream (by some accounts the dream was preceded by a day-time vision) of a flaming cross in the sky, and beneath it were the words, in Greek, "In this sign conquer." He thereupon embraced Christianity and proceeded south to the Tiber, where his victory over the Emperor Maxentius gave him control of the Western Empire. Constantine now effected his mother's conversion, and had his children reared as Christians. Helena became zealous for the faith, using her influence and wealth to extend Christianity. She built many churches and restored shrines; her name is particularly associated with churches at Rome and at Trier, in Gaul. But it is in the Holy Land itself that we have the most authentic record of her activities, which included the construction of great basilicas at Bethlehem and Jerusalem. To clear the Holy Places of the accumulated debris of three centuries was Helena's dearest aim. According to some of the chroniclers, when she was an old woman of nearly eighty, with the help of St. Judas Cyriacus, she cleared the mound that covered the Holy Sepulchre, and in doing so uncovered the True Cross, on which Jesus was crucified. The treasure was then removed to Byzantium, and in the life of <St. Louis> of France we shall read something of its later history. There is, however, no record of this discovery in Eusebius.
The Spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah.
He passed through Gilead and Manasseh,
and through Mizpah-Gilead as well,
and from there he went on to the Ammonites.
Jephthah made a vow to the LORD.
"If you deliver the Ammonites into my power," he said,
"whoever comes out of the doors of my house
to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites
shall belong to the LORD.
I shall offer him up as a burnt offering."
Jephthah then went on to the Ammonites to fight against them,
and the LORD delivered them into his power,
so that he inflicted a severe defeat on them,
from Aroer to the approach of Minnith (twenty cities in all)
and as far as Abel-keramim.
Thus were the Ammonites brought into subjection
by the children of Israel.
When Jephthah returned to his house in Mizpah,
it was his daughter who came forth,
playing the tambourines and dancing.
She was an only child: he had neither son nor daughter besides her.
When he saw her, he rent his garments and said,
"Alas, daughter, you have struck me down
and brought calamity upon me.
For I have made a vow to the LORD and I cannot retract."
She replied, "Father, you have made a vow to the LORD.
Do with me as you have vowed,
because the LORD has wrought vengeance for you
on your enemies the Ammonites."
Then she said to her father, "Let me have this favor.
Spare me for two months, that I may go off down the mountains
to mourn my virginity with my companions."
"Go," he replied, and sent her away for two months.
So she departed with her companions
and mourned her virginity on the mountains.
At the end of the two months she returned to her father,
who did to her as he had vowed.
Ps 40:5, 7-8a, 8b-9, 10
R. (8a and 9a) Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.
Blessed the man who makes the LORD his trust;
who turns not to idolatry
or to those who stray after falsehood.
R. Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.
Sacrifice or oblation you wished not,
but ears open to obedience you gave me.
Burnt offerings or sin-offerings you sought not;
then said I, "Behold I come."
R. Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.
"In the written scroll it is prescribed for me.
To do your will, O my God, is my delight,
and your law is within my heart!"
R. Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.
I announced your justice in the vast assembly;
I did not restrain my lips, as you, O LORD, know.
R. Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.
Jesus again in reply spoke to the chief priests and the elders of the people in parables
saying, “The Kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king
who gave a wedding feast for his son.
He dispatched his servants to summon the invited guests to the feast,
but they refused to come.
A second time he sent other servants, saying,
‘Tell those invited: “Behold, I have prepared my banquet,
my calves and fattened cattle are killed,
and everything is ready; come to the feast.”’
Some ignored the invitation and went away,
one to his farm, another to his business.
The rest laid hold of his servants,
mistreated them, and killed them.
The king was enraged and sent his troops,
destroyed those murderers, and burned their city.
Then the king said to his servants, ‘The feast is ready,
but those who were invited were not worthy to come.
Go out, therefore, into the main roads
and invite to the feast whomever you find.’
The servants went out into the streets
and gathered all they found, bad and good alike,
and the hall was filled with guests.
But when the king came in to meet the guests
he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment.
He said to him, ‘My friend, how is it
that you came in here without a wedding garment?’
But he was reduced to silence.
Then the king said to his attendants, ‘Bind his hands and feet,
and cast him into the darkness outside,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’
Many are invited, but few are chosen.”
All the citizens of Shechem and all Beth-millo came together
and proceeded to make Abimelech king
by the terebinth at the memorial pillar in Shechem.
When this was reported to him,
Jotham went to the top of Mount Gerizim and, standing there,
cried out to them in a loud voice:
"Hear me, citizens of Shechem, that God may then hear you!
Once the trees went to anoint a king over themselves.
So they said to the olive tree, 'Reign over us.'
But the olive tree answered them, 'Must I give up my rich oil,
whereby men and gods are honored,
and go to wave over the trees?'
Then the trees said to the fig tree, 'Come; you reign over us!'
But the fig tree answered them,
'Must I give up my sweetness and my good fruit,
and go to wave over the trees?'
Then the trees said to the vine, 'Come you, and reign over us.'
But the vine answered them,
'Must I give up my wine that cheers gods and men,
and go to wave over the trees?'
Then all the trees said to the buckthorn, 'Come; you reign over us!'
But the buckthorn replied to the trees,
'If you wish to anoint me king over you in good faith,
come and take refuge in my shadow.
Otherwise, let fire come from the buckthorn
and devour the cedars of Lebanon.'"
Ps 21:2-3, 4-5, 6-7
R. (2a) Lord, in your strength the king is glad.
O LORD, in your strength the king is glad;
in your victory how greatly he rejoices!
You have granted him his heart's desire;
you refused not the wish of his lips.
R. Lord, in your strength the king is glad.
For you welcomed him with goodly blessings,
you placed on his head a crown of pure gold.
He asked life of you: you gave him
length of days forever and ever.
R. Lord, in your strength the king is glad.
Great is his glory in your victory;
majesty and splendor you conferred upon him.
You made him a blessing forever,
you gladdened him with the joy of your face.
R. Lord, in your strength the king is glad.
Mt 20:1-16 Jesus told his disciples this parable:
“The Kingdom of heaven is like a landowner
who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard.
After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage,
he sent them into his vineyard.
Going out about nine o’clock,
he saw others standing idle in the marketplace,
and he said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard,
and I will give you what is just.’
So they went off.
And he went out again around noon,
and around three o’clock, and did likewise.
Going out about five o’clock,
he found others standing around, and said to them,
‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’
They answered, ‘Because no one has hired us.’
He said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard.’
When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman,
‘Summon the laborers and give them their pay,
beginning with the last and ending with the first.’
When those who had started about five o’clock came,
each received the usual daily wage.
So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more,
but each of them also got the usual wage.
And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, saying,
‘These last ones worked only one hour,
and you have made them equal to us,
who bore the day’s burden and the heat.’
He said to one of them in reply,
‘My friend, I am not cheating you.
Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage?
Take what is yours and go.
What if I wish to give this last one the same as you?
Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money?
Are you envious because I am generous?’
Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
Saint Clare of Montefalco
Feastday: August 17
"How long I have waited for someone
I could trust with My Cross"
These words were said by our Lord Jesus in a vision to St. Clare of Montefalco.
In the Chapel of the Holy Cross in Montefalco, Italy, there is a fresco depicting Christ, dressed as a poor pilgrim, His Face weary from the weight of the Cross, His Body showing the outward signs of the long, hard journey carrying His Cross. In the foreground we see Clare kneeling, trying to keep Him from going any further, pleading, "Lord, where are You going?"
To which, Christ responds, "I have searched the whole world for a strong place to plant firmly this Cross, and I have not found one."
In the Nuns' Chapel, there is another small fresco. Clare is looking up to Jesus, her hands outstretched touching the Cross, expressing all the years of longing to share Jesus' Cross. Our Lord's Face is no longer gaunt with exhaustion, but beaming with love and joy. His Journey is over. He says to her, "Yes, Clare, here I have found a place for My Cross, at last, someone I could trust with My Cross," and He thrust it in her heart.
This was truly a cross for Clare to carry, which she did for the rest of her life. But more importantly, these words were to be hope in, and understanding of, the crosses we are called to carry in our own lives. Jesus could bear the Cross because He knew and believed in the Love of the Father and His Promise of the Resurrection. Clare adored and carried the Cross of Jesus, confident that she could trust in Him and His Promise to her. I pray our beloved St. Clare will be for you what she has been for us, truth in a world that encourages lies, hope in a world that promotes hopelessness.
Clare confided to her cousin Giovanna seven years later, this Vision which had occurred at the beginning of 1294. The excruciating pain she felt in her entire body, upon receiving the Cross Jesus Himself planted in her heart, remained with her. From that first moment, she was always keenly aware of the Cross she could not only feel but sense with every fiber of her being. He was part of her; her Love, Jesus and she were one in His Cross.
We could not begin to tell you the entire story of St. Clare of Montefalco. We suggest you read our book, Saints and Other Powerful Women in the Church for a more detailed life of St. Clare, but we wanted to share with you some of the highlights of her life, her Passion to share the Cross of Jesus, and the reward Our Lord gave her, which was manifested after her death.
Clare was born to Damiano and Iacopa Vengente in the year 1268. She was one of four children. The eldest, her sister Giovanna, established a hermitage in the year 1271. Giovanna was twenty years old when she and her friend Andreola set out to live a life of prayer and sacrifice in the tiny hermitage her father built for them. In 1274, it was granted approval by the ecclesiastical authorities. Giovanna was then allowed to receive candidates.
The first candidate was her sister Clare, all of six years old. Her holy parents had great devotion to our Lord and His Mother. That and the ongoing, living example of her sister Giovanna and companion Andreola, whom she visited often at the hermitage, surely contributed greatly to Clare's desire to love and serve the Lord through a life of prayer. She was a very alive little girl whom everyone found genuine, perceptive and sensible beyond her years, as well as extremely lovable. From the very beginning, though she was much younger (Giovanna seventeen years her senior), Clare kept up with her two companions, spiritually, prayerfully and penitentially, almost surpassing the mortification practiced by the others. From her earliest childhood years, there had been a burning love inside her for our dear Lord, especially in His Passion. This fire inside her was what gave her the energy and the zeal, her strength to live a life that would be demanding for most, but near impossible for a little girl.
Although she was a saintly little girl, she was a little girl with a very healthy appetite. She was even known to have to fight her craving for some of her mother's homemade dishes. Because of this fondness for certain foods, Clare made a point of strictly observing not only an ongoing, but an increasingly more stringent fast and abstinence during Lent than what was observed by the others in the hermitage.
As no Religious Rule had been established in the hermitage, it is all the more remarkable that Clare faithfully practiced strict obedience to her sister Giovanna, the leader of the group. Once when she broke the rule of silence prescribed to the Community by Giovanna, Clare imposed on herself a penance of standing in a bucket of ice cold water with her arms outstretched high above her head, praying the Lord's Prayer one hundred times.
In 1278, Clare's friend Marina entered the Convent. She was to be followed shortly after, by others, Tommasa, Paola, Illuminata, and Agnese (like our Sr. Agnese of today). This became a problem. Oh what we would do for such problems in our Church today! With more and more girls requesting admittance into their company, it was soon evident they would need a larger hermitage. Giovanna consulted with the members of her Community and other individuals as well, and after prayer and fasting, they decided to move to a hill nearer to the town. Damiano, Giovanna and Clare's father, again set about the building of the new hermitage. He never finished it, however, as the Lord called him Home. It is believed he died in 1280 or 1281. Clare was 12 years old.
On November 22, 1291, Clare's sister Giovanna went to dwell with her Lord and Master, Jesus. People, soon after her death, began calling her Blessed. Many of our Saints before the twelfth century, were proclaimed Saints by popular demand of the townspeople, because of the lives the Saints had lived; and how they had been touched and changed by the Saints' example.
For Clare, the loss of her sister was to cause her pain unlike anything she had ever experienced before. Not even at the death of her father, had Clare cried. Not even when her mother died in Clare's Monastery, did Clare cry. She loved her mother and father very much, but she had not cried. Now she cried for three days and nights. Inconsolable, allowing no one inside of her, she grieved alone, privately. The Nuns were puzzled to see her cry at the death of her sister, as she had not cried for her parents. Concerned and troubled, they approached her asking her the reason for her tears.
She replied, "How is it you do not understand? I weep neither for her (Giovanna) soul or her body, but only for myself. Isn't that who we cry for? Giovanna was to me an example and a mirror of life; everyday she spoke to me of God and of always new and profound and spiritual matters. For this I weep, for nothing else."
The Bishop's representative arrived for the election of a new Abbess. The Nuns unanimously chose Clare. She wept, feeling totally unworthy, and begged them to choose someone else, someone who was holy and wise, claiming she was neither. She had been unsuccessful when she had requested to be allowed to be among the extern sisters during her sister's lifetime, arguing that she was not holy enough to be part of the cloister. Now she was pleading again of her unworthiness, only to have her sister Nuns turn a deaf ear to her objections. She asked the Nuns to present her petition, to the Bishop, stating she was unqualified spiritually and totally lacking the necessary wisdom to be Abbess. To her dismay not only did they refuse, but her brother Francesco, to whom she then turned, refused as well. Her many friends from Spoleto, knowing first-hand her holiness and virtue, also denied her last ditch effort to have her unworthiness brought before the Bishop.
All the Saints teach one important lesson, from the Old Testament to today, God uses who they are to do His Work on earth. I can see this persistence of Clare, being molded for His Design. [Author's note: Whenever we wonder "why us" the answer we get is, "Because I chose you, no other reason. Yes, there are others more worthy, but I have chosen you. Now just say `Yes,' and get on with it!"]
"Call me Clare. I am simply Clare," she would plead. She continued to choose the most menial chores for herself, performing them humbly and joyfully. One Friday, when the chapter of the Community was held to discuss the matters of the Monastery, as a point of instruction (or possibly as an example), Clare knelt in the middle of the room and ordered the Sisters to give her the discipline (Name of the small whip or scourge used by some austere Religious orders in penitential practice as a means of bodily mortification) in memory of the Lord's Passion. Like so many before her, Clare had the over-riding desire to share in our Lord's Passion, praying she could take some of the Stripes of Jesus on herself, offering herself as a soothing balm for His Wounds.
Although she felt unworthy and suffered great inner turmoil, she accepted her responsibilities as Abbess and became Mother, teacher, and Spiritual Director to her charges. She helped them to offer to the Lord their individual wants that these might be molded into the Community's needs, thus forming them into one body, one shared, common life. By balancing prayer with the physical work necessary around the Monastery, the lesson of Martha and Mary in the New Testament, was to bring to this Community a joy, an everlasting love. Sensitive to those who felt called to more prayer, she allowed them to pursue it, but with the provision everyone did manual work! She, like another powerful woman we have written about, our Mother Angelica, personally directed each and every one of her Nuns, carefully, unceasingly, guiding them in their everyday spiritual and corporal needs.
On the evening of August the 15th, 1308, she called the Nuns together and left them her spiritual last will and testament, "I offer my soul and all of you, the death of Lord Jesus Christ. Be blessed by God and by me. And I pray, my daughters, that you behave well and that all the work God has had me do for you be blessed. Be humble, obedient; be such women that God may always be praised through you."
After speaking to all of the weeping Nuns, trying to leave them consoled and strengthened, she asked for the Sacrament of Extreme Unction.
When a Nun is dying, each of the Sisters make a sign of the Cross on her. As they attempted to do so to Clare, she gently but firmly protested over and over again, "Why do you sign me, Sisters? I have the crucified Jesus in my heart."
The evening of August 17th, the day she died, the Nuns opened her heart preparing it to place in a Reliquary. To their amazement, Clare's words came alive; there before them were the marks of Jesus Passion! Cradled inside the softness of her grand heart, was the Perfect Form of Jesus Crucified, even to the Crown of Thorns clearly evidenced on his Head, and the lance Wound in His Precious Side. The Lord had not only planted His Crucified Body within the recesses of her heart, but the painful evidence of some of His Sufferings, the means of flagellation in a form of ligaments or tendons, the whip that was used to scourge our Beloved Lord, with the ends showing the metal balls and the jagged bones used to rip our Lord's Skin from His Bones.
The news of this miracle spread! The following Monday, an old adversary, Fra Pietro di Salomone, made his way to the Vicar of the diocese of Spoleto, Msgr. Berengario. He denounced the Nuns, claiming their findings were willfully misrepresented. On Tuesday Monsignor left for Montefalco. Upon arriving there, he immediately called together theologians, lawyers and doctors. The heart was carefully investigated and they all unanimously concluded that the "marks" were not of an explainable scientific nature or of human understanding, in other words, a phenomena, or as we are so happy to say, God leaving another miracle in our midst. There was not only a document drawn by the Church and affirmed by science, but the civil authorities did their own investigation and issued their findings. The heart of Clare did in fact contain this extraordinary sign and it was not the result of any false doings.
Another phenomena or as we prefer to call it, miraculous sign, was the finding of three stones inside her bladder. When the Nuns further investigated they discovered in the gall bladder three gall stones the size of large hazel nuts perfectly equal in size, color, shape and weight. They were found to weigh all the same, one weighing as much as two, two as three, one as three. The Sisters at the Shrine tell us this sign was left to show the love Clare had for the Blessed Trinity. But we wonder if it was not also, possibly to explain the Blessed Trinity as much as The Triune God can be explained. One Person equal to Each of the Other Two Persons, as well as equal to the Two Combined of the other Persons of the Trinity. In the sign left by the Lord, in the body of St. Clare, the three weighed the same as one, the two as one, the one as two or as three, all equal. Coincidence?
God is speaking to His people. Yes, there is nothing new being said, that is of the Lord, outside of the Sacred Word; but when times are such, when we are getting confused as to what is His Word, He not only raises up Saints, but leaves teachings for all generations to see. Is this His Way of saying, "What you do or say today may, like the water that flows, either satisfy man's thirst for the Living God or contaminate his soul, leading him away for all eternity."
The angel of the LORD came and sat under the terebinth in Ophrah
that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite.
While his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the wine press
to save it from the Midianites,
the angel of the LORD appeared to him and said,
"The LORD is with you, O champion!"
Gideon said to him, "My Lord, if the LORD is with us,
why has all this happened to us"
Where are his wondrous deeds of which our fathers
told us when they said, "Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt?"
For now the LORD has abandoned us
and has delivered us into the power of Midian."
The LORD turned to him and said, "Go with the strength you have
and save Israel from the power of Midian.
It is I who send you."
But Gideon answered him, "Please, my lord, how can I save Israel?
My family is the lowliest in Manasseh,
and I am the most insignificant in my father's house."
"I shall be with you," the LORD said to him,
"and you will cut down Midian to the last man."
Gideon answered him, "If I find favor with you,
give me a sign that you are speaking with me.
Do not depart from here, I pray you, until I come back to you
and bring out my offering and set it before you."
He answered, "I will await your return."
So Gideon went off and prepared a kid and a measure of flour
in the form of unleavened cakes.
Putting the meat in a basket and the broth in a pot,
he brought them out to him under the terebinth
and presented them.
The angel of God said to him, "Take the meat and unleavened cakes
and lay them on this rock; then pour out the broth."
When he had done so,
the angel of the LORD stretched out the tip of the staff he held,
and touched the meat and unleavened cakes.
Thereupon a fire came up from the rock
that consumed the meat and unleavened cakes,
and the angel of the LORD disappeared from sight.
Gideon, now aware that it had been the angel of the LORD,
said, "Alas, Lord GOD,
that I have seen the angel of the LORD face to face!"
The LORD answered him,
"Be calm, do not fear. You shall not die."
So Gideon built there an altar to the LORD
and called it Yahweh-shalom.
Ps 85:9, 11-12, 13-14
R. (see 9b) The Lord speaks of peace to his people.
I will hear what God proclaims;
the LORD -- for he proclaims peace
To his people, and to his faithful ones,
and to those who put in him their hope.
R. The Lord speaks of peace to his people.
Kindness and truth shall meet;
justice and peace shall kiss.
Truth shall spring out of the earth,
and justice shall look down from heaven.
R. The Lord speaks of peace to his people.
The LORD himself will give his benefits;
our land shall yield its increase.
Justice shall walk before him,
and salvation, along the way of his steps.
R. The Lord speaks of peace to his people.
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Amen, I say to you, it will be hard for one who is rich
to enter the Kingdom of heaven.
Again I say to you,
it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle
than for one who is rich to enter the Kingdom of God.”
When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and said,
“Who then can be saved?”
Jesus looked at them and said,
“For men this is impossible,
but for God all things are possible.”
Then Peter said to him in reply,
“We have given up everything and followed you.
What will there be for us?”
Jesus said to them, “Amen, I say to you
that you who have followed me, in the new age,
when the Son of Man is seated on his throne of glory,
will yourselves sit on twelve thrones,
judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters
or father or mother or children or lands
for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more,
and will inherit eternal life.
But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”
Feastday: August 16
Patron Saint of Dogs,
Falsely Accused People,
Invalids, Diseased Cattle
Born at Montpellier towards 1295; died 1327. His father was governor of that city. At his birth St. Roch is said to have been found miraculously marked on the breast with a red cross. Deprived of his parents when about twenty years old, he distributed his fortune among the poor, handed over to his uncle the government of Montpellier, and in the disguise of a mendicant pilgrim, set out for Italy, but stopped at Aquapendente, which was stricken by the plague, and devoted himself to the plague-stricken, curing them with the sign of the cross. He next visited Cesena and other neighbouring cities and then Rome. Everywhere the terrible scourge disappeared before his miraculous power. He visited Mantua, Modena, Parma, and other cities with the same results. At Piacenza, he himself was stricken with the plague. He withdrew to a hut in the neighbouring forest, where his wants were supplied by a gentleman named Gothard, who by a miracle learned the place of his retreat. After his recovery Roch returned to France. Arriving at Montpellier and refusing to disclose his identity, he was taken for a spy in the disguise of a pilgrim, and cast into prison by order of the governor, — his own uncle, some writers say, — where five years later he died. The miraculous cross on his breast as well as a document found in his possession now served for his identification. He was accordingly given a public funeral, and numerous miracles attested his sanctity.
In 1414, during the Council of Constance, the plague having broken out in that city, the Fathers of the Council ordered public prayers and processions in honour of the saint, and immediately the plague ceased. His relics, according to Wadding, were carried furtively to Venice in 1485, where they are still venerated. It is commonly held that he belonged to the Third Order of St. Francis; but it cannot be proved. Wadding leaves it an open question. Urban VIII approved the ecclesiastical office to be recited on his feast (16 August). Paul III instituted a confraternity, under the invocation of the saint, to have charge of the church and hospital erected during the pontificate of Alexander VI. The confraternity increased so rapidly that Paul IV raised it to an archconfraternity, with powers to aggregate similar confraternities of St. Roch. It was given a cardinal-protector, and a prelate of high rank was to be its immediate superior (see Reg. et Const. Societatis S. Rochi). Various favours have been bestowed on it by Pius IV (C. Regimini, 7 March, 1561), by Gregory XIII (C. dated 5 January, 1577), by Gregory XIV (C. Paternar. pont., 7 March, 1591), and by other pontiffs. It still flourishes.
Christopher (Topher) Anderson,MWD