Today, the 20th of August, the universal Church celebrates “the man of the twelfth century”, St Bernard of Clairvaux.
Born in 1090 in Fontaines, France, he was raised in a large family. After being educated in the liberal arts of grammar, rhetoric and dialectics at the school of the canons of the Church of Saint-Vorles at Châtillon-sur-Seine, Bernard discerned the vocation of entering monastic life. At age of twenty he entered the monastery of Cîteaux, a new monastic institution which, on one hand was more flexible than others, such as the great Cluny, but also adopted a stricter approach concerning the living of the evangelical counsels.
Five years after his entrance in the monastic life Stephen Harding, the third Abbot of Cîteaux, sent Bernard to establish the new monastery of Clairvaux. What Bernard did was to accentuate a sober and temperate life in food, clothing as well as monastic buildings. He also suggested help and care of the poor. Such a new lifestyle attracted huge numbers of vocations so much so that other monasteries were founded.