St Bernard of Clairvaux talks about the Norbertines


SS. Norbert and Bernard meet with the Emperor Lothair (from a window at Park Abbey, Belgium)

We have posted before about the great St Bernard of Clairvaux and his friendship with Our Holy Father Norbert.

As Vita B says about them: “Faith was the outstanding virtue of Norbert’s life, as Charity had been the hallmark of Bernard of Clairvaux.”

The two Saints were friends, and admired each other greatly. As reformers, they faced the problems in the wider church together, and were both men of holy eloquence, strict asceticism, and deep sanctity. Although both men were capable of moments of passionate fervour, they were not ill-tempered, but known rather for their gentleness.

After 1124, when Bernard signed the charter handing over the church of St Martin of Laon to the Premonstratensians, both Norbert and Bernard join forces in preaching against Abelard. In his own account, Abelard impiously remarked: “Two new apostles were raised against me, in whom people placed much trust. The one thought himself to have resurrected the life of the canons regular, the other the monastic life.” Far from vainly thinking of themselves as such, that is precisely what Norbert and Bernard did.

St Bernard was also instrumental in the founding of many of our houses. To inspire the Norbertine confreres of today, we remind you of the letter St Bernard wrote to Melisende, Queen of Jerusalem, recommending the Premonstratensians to her, in order that they (rather than his own Cistercian monks) might help her by establishing houses of canons there. May we, through St Bernard’s prayers, be worthy of his compliments and live up to his high expectations!

To Melisende, the august Queen of Jerusalem, Bernard of Clairvaux sends greeting. See how much trust I have in your majesty, since I dare to recommend others to you. And it would be as unnecessary as presumptuous, perhaps, for me to say much in recommendation of these brethren of Prémontré, for they so commend themselves by their own merit that they have no need of recommendation by another.

They will be found, if I mistake not, to be men of wisdom, strong in spirit, patient in tribulation, powerful in word and work. They have put on the whole armour of God and have girded themselves with the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, to fight not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual wickedness in high places.

Welcome them, I beseech you, as peaceful warriors, sweet to men, and fearful only to demons. Or rather, welcome in them Jesus Christ Himself, Who is the only reason for the mission which they undertake.  (Ep.355, PL 182,557)

St Bernard of Clairvaux, Pray for us.

About stephanusopraem

Norbertine of the Canonry of Our Lady of Sorrows and St Philip Benizi, Chelmsford, UK
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