The name saint of my graduate school has a feast today. I suspect Trappists around the world today have a little festivity added to their austerity.
In his lifetime, Bernard was something of a wunderkind. Abbot at 25. More effective as an evangelizer for monastic life than Robert Barron and Fulton Sheen put together.
Despite his spiritual anchor being in the cloister, he seemed to be involved in a lot of conflict: addressing heretics and others supporting questionable theology. His Iraq War was the Second Crusade, an utter failure by anyone’s yardstick.
For me, the stronger witness is that of his descendants. My first retreat experiences were here as a college student and then fairly frequent visits while in my twenties. I had a particularly moving retreat in 1989 here. One of my favorite spiritual books is this loving treatment by theologian Michael Downey and photographer Michael Mauney.
Two things, one serious and one not. Centuries before the ice bucket challenge became a popular sensation, according to hagiographers, Bernard once threw himself into icy water to cool off a temptation.
Part of the 12th century Cistercian reforms he initiated involved a renewal of the practice of Lectio Divina. Bernard referred to it as the wine cellar of the Holy Spirit where one is anointed by the Spirit. Which reminds me … time to enjoy some of this cellar for awhile. I can think of no better way to observe a saint’s feast than to sample some of the nourishment they suggest.