Ponce de Leros + 1140
Noble, wealthy and an accomplished soldier, he was also a thief and a swindler. Finally touched by the grace of God, he made a sudden and complete conversion, setting about his new life in a very practical way by selling all he possessed and making restitution to all whom he had wronged. His example led to the conversion of six of his relatives. Together they made a pilgrimage to St James of Compostella, Mont-St-Michel and other shrines. Finally they settled in a valley known as Silvones in southern France, and lived in poverty and labor. During a famine Ponce himself collected food for the poor, and their grain supply was at times miraculously multiplied. Later he affiliated the community to the Cistercians with Mozen as their father-immediate, and Ponce became a lay-brother of our Order.
MBS, p. 218
Petronilla Le Clerc and Louise Ivore + 1650
Two lay-sisters of Parc aux Dames, who entered the convent together, made profession together and died on the same day.
William + 1143
An Englishman, quite possibly a pupil of Henry Murdoc of York, he was attracted to Clairvaux by the fame of St Bernard. He became the latter's secretary and it was he who took down Bernard's famous letter to his kinsman, Robert, "amid a downpour and without its becoming wet". He also served as associate reviser of the Chant in the Cistercian choir books.
In 1133 when Walter Espec wished to found a Cistercian monastery in York, William was chosen by Bernard to head the foundation. Within twelve years Rievaulx numbered 300 monks, including St Aelred. William founded three new abbeys in England and Scotland, among them Melrose, and his influence and example led to the foundation of Fountains. He also acted as mediator in ecclesiastical disputes, including the disputed election of the archbishop of York in 1140.
MBS, p. 221
Bl Waltheof + 1160
After his father's death, his mother married King David of Scotland and Waltheof was brought up at court where St Aelred became his close friend. Unlike Aelred, however, Waltheof was not attracted by court life and cultured society. He became a canon of St Augustine and was made prior of their house at Kirkham.
In 1143 he was elected archbishop of York and in order to escape from the position, he fled to the Cistercian monastery of Wardon, not far from London. During his novitiate he experienced great dryness of soul; doubts and fears were increased by the austerities which he found very difficult to bear. However, with the encouragement of Aelred, he remained firm in his resolve to persevere as a Cistercian. At some point he went to Rievaulx where Aelred was abbot and in 1147 he himself was made abbot of Melrose. He was an abbot after the mind of St Benedict: firm but gentle, full of tolerance and understanding of human
weakness. He was especially anxious that his monks refrain from criticizing one another and once a fault had been acknowledged and expiated in Chapter, he strictly forbade anyone to make any reference to it by word or sign. He had a special love for the lay-brothers, gave them frequent conferences and received them for spiritual direction.
Waltheof's piety was especially nourished by the liturgy and his greatest graces had their source in some text of the offices of the great feasts. He was also devoted to the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
In 1159 he was offered the bishopric of St Andrew's, but feeling his end was near he declined to accept. On his death bed he thanked God for all the trials and sufferings of his life as for the most precious graces.
MBS, p. 224
Konrad von Herlesheim + 1270
He was knighted in his twentieth year and in the same year entered the monastery of Heyn, Germany. He served his community as treasurer and later procurator. Once when he longed for union with Christ, Our Lord said to him, "I will grant that my joy and yours may be one; my will and yours one; my glory and yours one."
In 1195 King Alfonso of Castile was defeated at Alarcos; Calatrava was taken by the Saracens and the monks, chaplain and knights were slain for the sake of Christ.
Antonia Jacinta de Navarra y de la Cueva + 1656
Daughter of Duke Philip of Navarre, she became a nun at Las Huelgas and was later elected abbess. When she pronounced her vows, she asked Jesus as a wedding gift that he lead her through sorrows and adversity. She found both in abundance, suffering from illness and spiritual anxieties. She is said to have received the stigmata.
Frederic Dunne 1874-1948
At twenty he wished to enter the abbey of Gethsemani as a lay-brother, but was persuaded to become a choir monk and priest. He was, in fact, the first American choir postulant to persevere. After his ordination in 1901 he was appointed simultaneously vice-president of Gethsemani College (soon after suppressed), guest master, postmaster and prior. He held the latter office for thirty years, and was responsible for the house during Abbot Edmond Obrecht's frequent absences. Upon Obrecht'a death, Father Frederic was elected abbot. Under his guidance, Gethsemani prospered and grew to such a size that two daughterhouses, Holy Spirit and Holy Trinity, were founded, and two more prepared.
Dom Frederic died en route to visit his foundation in Georgia.
Father Raymond, The Less Traveled Road;
Thomas Merton, Waters of Siloe, pp. 206-228ff
Thomas Lombard + 1606
A native of Waterford,Ireland, he went to the Irish College in Salamanca to study theology and be ordained. He became a monk at Sobrado, Spain, but was sent by his superiors back to Ireland to minister to Catholics there.
His holiness and kindness enabled him to reconcile many persons to the Church. Finally, during an epidemic, while ministering to the plague-stricken, he himself contracted the fatal disease.
Granderey + 1794
A monk of Barbery in Normandy. When expelled from his monastery at the time of the French Revolution, he lived in hiding and secretly exercised his sacred ministry. One Sunday, the revolutionists seized him and beat him, shot him in the leg and broke his shoulder. Finally, they suspended him in a furnace and set fire to straw beneath him. He bore these tortures with great patience, saying nothing except to cry now and then, "St Bernard, pray for me".
George Lazenby + 1535
A monk of Jervaulx. During the spring of 1535, special preachers were sent by order of Henry VIII to all monasteries in England to obtain the assent of every religious to the Act of Supremacy. When one of them preached at Jervaulx that the Pope had no greater power to forgive sins than any priest or bishop, Dom George interrupted him, and when further questioned, insisted that the Pope, and not the King, was the visible head of the Church. He was arrested and on August 6 found guilty of high treason. No direct evidence of his execution has been found, but it seems likely that he was indeed martyred shortly afterwards, "glad", as he himself said, "to die in so good a quarrel as the defense of the Church, of whom the Pope is alone the head by God's law".
Cistercian Studies 1985:4, p. 314
Maurice Tien + 1900
Lay-brother of Our Lady of Consolation in China. Remarkable for his spirit of recollection, his meekness, obedience and patience amid adversity and humiliations, he acted as herdsman in the monastery. Shortly after his solemn profession, he was stricken with hernia. When an incursion of the Boxer rebels threatened, some two thousand Christians took refuge in the monastery and Brother Maurice lacked the care he needed. He bore this and the acute pains of his infirmity without any sign of impatience, repeating over and over, "My Holy Mother".
Gerard 12th century
Native of Utrecht, Belgium, and a monk of Clairvaux, he was sent by St Bernard with a group of monks to found the monastery of Alvastra, Sweden, and later became its second abbot. When Gerard left Clairvaux, St Bernard had consoled him by promising that he would die there. And so in his old age he had himself placed on a litter between two horses, reached Clairvaux safely and not long after, died in his beloved "home" monastery.
St Famian + 1150
A native of Cologne, he renounced his family riches to lead a life that was partly that of a pilgrim and partly that of a hermit. He became a Cistercian when he was fifty at the monastery of Osera, Spain. Later, with his abbot's permission, he set out on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and Rome. When he reached the town of Gallece, he died, and his fame spread, due to many miracles attributed to his intercession. It is from this fame that he is said to have received the name, Famian; previously he had been known as Quardon or Wordon.
Peter-of-Alcantara Vondercher + 1848
A monk of Oelenberg, humble and mortified, who devoted all his free time to prayer before the Tabernacle.
Stephanie Lanner + 1814
A young nun of Lichtenthal, Bavaria, Germany, eager for the dura et aspera of the monastic life, totally absorbed in the love of God.
Bl Beatrice de Silva 1424-1490
A relative of Isabella of Portugal, who was to marry King John II of Castile, Beatrice accompanied her to the Spanish court, but left soon after. She went to the Cistercian nuns of St Dominic of Silos where, dressed as a widow, she lived for thirty-seven years in solitude, prayer and penance. Finally in 1484, she founded the order of the Conceptionists. They adopted the rule of the Cistercians but with a different habit and certain usages, and paid special honor to the Immaculate Conception.
Frederic Maillard 1793-1836
Procurator at Our Lady of Port du Salut, known especially for his generosity to the poor.
In 1228, the monastery of Dunamunde or Mt St Nicholas in Livonia was sacked by the surrounding pagans, and the prior, Alberon, and his monks were massacred.
Malachy Garneyrin + 1709
Having belonged to the Order of St Anthony, he became a monk at La Trappe, where he was afflicted and tried by grave ailments. When he had recovered, his abbot, de Rance, made him director of the nuns of Les Clairets. He refused the abbacy of Tamie, but later was constrained to become abbot of the restored monastery of Buon-Solazzo in Tuscany. He was at the service of all, and treated each with great kindness. He died after four years in office.
Charles Marie Ramel + 1818
Having twice unsuccessfully attempted the monastic life at La Val Sainte, he became a monk at the restored monastery of La Trappe, where he was conspicuous for his humility, spirit of prayer and interior joy.
Ephrem Seignol + 1893
Inspired by reading a biography of Father Ephrem Furer, he became a monk at Aiguebelle and later prior of Tamie. In 1883 he was appointed superior of the monks who were to found Our Lady of Consolation in China. When this very difficult undertaking had begun to prosper, he was removed from his superiorship under ambiguous circumstances. However, he bore the humiliation with patience and even joy, submissive and obedient to the new prior, living unnoticed among the brethren in peace and serenity.
A rich and pious merchant of Antwerp, he founded the monastery of Holy Savior which was connected to the Sibculo League and which became a center of fervent religious life.
Aloysius Bley + 1904
A native of Westphalia and a lay-brother of Mariastern, Yugoslavia. With another brother he was sent to New Pomerania, an island near Australia now known as New Britain, to explore possibilities for a foundation. Meanwhile, he rendered service to a mission station as a carpenter. However, together with two missionary priests, two brothers and five sisters, he was attacked and cruelly slain by the natives.
Adam Trebnic + 1630
He had been a canon of Wloclawek, Poland, archdeacon of Pomerania and chancellor to the local ordinary. The community of Oliva chose him as their abbot, stipulating that he should first make a two-year novitiate at Clairvaux under Dennis Largentier. This he did, and then governed Oliva wisely for fourteen years, acting also as vicar-general of the Order throughout Pomerania and Poland.
In Ireland, forty monks of Nenay and their abbot were slain for the faith towards the end of the 16th century.
Today is the solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the patronal feast of our Order.
Desiderius 12th century
A lay-brother of Clairvaux. Once on the feast of Our Lady's Assumption, he was tending his flock at one of the granges. Although unable to be in the church with his brethren, he wished to join in their praises of Mary. He arose at the hour of Vigils and standing with his eyes and heart turned towards the monastery, began to recite his Aves and continued thus throughout the night and early morning. It was revealed to St Bernard that his simple prayer had surpassed even the most sublime contemplation of the monks.
Athanasius de Villa Gomez
A monk of Our Lady of Nogales, Spain, who lived in bodily mortification, purity of soul and constant contemplation.
Dositheus Pellon + 1878
He entered Melleray as a priest at the age of forty-five and seven years later was elected abbot of Fontgombault. He governed this community for nineteen years with firmness, prudence and gentleness.
Lawrence de Zamora
A Spanish abbot noted for his knowledge of sacred things and his eloquence.
Stephen + 1185
A native of East Gotland, he entered the monastery of Alvastra, Sweden. At the request of the king of Sweden, he was made archbishop of Upsala. Pope Alexander III made him primate of the realm and delegate of the Holy See. He built monasteries and churches and was an outstanding champion of peace and justice.
Sebastian Wyart 1839-1904
Having served as an officer of the papal army and in the Franco-Prussian War, and having been decorated for his bravery, he entered Sept-Fons, was ordained in 1877 and subsequently obtained a doctorate in theology. He was outstanding for his erudition and his firmness of character. Both Pius IX and Leo XIII held him in high personal regard. In 1887 he was elected abbot of Sept-Fons and began to take an active part in the movement to reunite the three Trappist Congregations. At the Chapter of 1892 he was elected the first abbot-general of the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance.
Lekai, p. 188
Bl Guerric of Igny c. 1080-1157
Born at Tournai, Belgium, he was probably educated at the cathedral school and may have taught there. For a time he lived as a solitary in a small house near the church. Attracted by the reputation of St Bernard, he went to Clairvaux probably in 1125, and at Bernard's urging, became a monk there.
Guerric was elected second abbot of Igny, Clairvaux's fourth daughterhouse, in 1138. The house flourished under his guidance, but it is for the spiritual teaching preserved in his fifty-four liturgical sermons that he is especially remembered. "Drawing on his own deep experience of God and the things of God, he leads into the depths of the mystery being celebrated, and not infrequently makes practical applications that are quite unexpected. His sermons can go far toward helping the reflective reader acquire the receptive, contemplative approach to the liturgy that allows him to be truly formed by it."
CF 8, 32; CS 25
"Unto us a child is born, a child who is the ancient of days. Though, as the ancient of days, he is not a child, still he is always new; indeed he is newness itself which remains always in him and renews all things." First Sermon for Christmas
"Come, my brothers! See how the candle burns in the hands of Simeon. Come, take light from it. Come, light your candles (I mean those torches which the Lord would have you carry burning in your hands); come near and receive the light. Not only carry torches in your hands - be yourselves living torches, burning within and without, for your own good and your neighbor's." First Sermon for Purification
"I will not serve, man says to his Creator. Then I will serve you, his Creator says to man. You sit down, I will minister, I will wash your feet. You rest, I will bear your weariness, your infirmities. Use me as you like in all your needs, not only as your slave but as your beast of burden and as your property... If you are ill and afraid to die, I will die for you, so that from my blood you may make yourself medicine that will restore life." First Sermon for Palm Sunday
Gobert d'Aspremont + 1263
A nobleman, and the father of a large family, he was concerned for justice and the rights of the oppressed. After making a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, he gave up his fortune and entered the monastery of Villers. There he based his religious life on four principles: 1) an uncompromising obedience to the Rule; 2) never to look down upon, despise or even patronize those who were situated below him; 3) never to place himself above his equals; 4) never to put himself on a level with those above him. He also continued to show mercy for the poor and needy.
MBS, p. 233
St Bernard of Clairvaux 1090-1153
Monk, abbot, mystic, reformer, prophet, apostle, miracle-worker, peacemaker and war-maker, counselor of popes and kings, champion of the poor, Bernard was probably the most influential man of his times. Through his writings, which run to some 3,500 pages, and include sermons, treatises and letters, he has continued to exert influence up to and including our own time. His writings reflect his experiences as he interacted with people and events. Above all, they reveal him as a man athirst for God, eager to teach others the way to God and impart to them a desire for holiness.
"Bernard of Clairvaux is a world in himself... his message transcends the time and place in which he wrote; it is perennial, and particularly relevant for our time;... The experiential, existential and even phenomenological nature of his teaching makes him close to many modern thinkers and those who come under their influence. At the same time, since he is grounded in the Scriptures, he brings us back to the sources, and to the Source itself, of all Christian spirituality." Jean Leclercq
CS 9; CS 16; CS 23; CS 28; CS 63; CS 77
"It is the property of the eternal law of God that he who will not be ruled sweetly by him, shall be ruled as a punishment by himself; that he who of his own will throws off the sweet and light yoke of charity, shall unwillingly suffer the insupportable burden of his own self-will." Letter 12
"These are the three steps of truth. We ascend the first by striving to be humble, the second by compassion, the third in the ecstasy of contemplation. In the first, truth is discovered to be severe; in the second, holy; in the third, pure. Reason leads to the first, in which we think about ourselves. Affection leads to the second, in which we think about others. Purity leads to the third, in which we are lifted up to see the invisible." The Steps of Humility and Pride
"Love is sufficient of itself. Of itself it pleases, and for its own sake. It is itself its own merit and its own reward. It seeks no motive, no fruit beyond itself. It is its own fruit, its own enjoyment. I love because I love. I love in order that I may love." SC 83
"O love, holy and chaste! O sweet and pleasing affection! O pure and undefiled intention of the will! the more surely undefiled and purer as there is mixed with it nothing of its own; so much the sweeter and more pleasing as its every feeling is wholly divine. To be thus affected is to become one with God." On Loving God
St Bernard of Condelada
Perhaps a monk of Val de Iglesias, honored as a local patron of Condelada in the province of Esteemadora, Spain.
Vitus Wilderic Sprengler + 1627
Prior and novice master at Schoenthal in Wurttemberg, Germany.
Benedict Deschamps + 1674
A monk of La Trappe. Suffering from consumption for four years, he sanctified himself through his infirmities and sickness, always full of gratitude for his vocation and of eagerness to enter heaven.
Hugh of Mont Felix
and Peter of Chalons-sur-Marne 12th century
Monks of Clairvaux and disciples of St Bernard, outstanding for their gravity, prudence and simplicity.
Marie de Senzeille + 1438
A nun of Marche-les-Dames, Belgium, she was made abbess of Soleilmont and succeeded in bringing about a fervent renewal of monastic observance there, so much so that her nuns were sent to reform other houses.
Godfrey 13th century
Chaplain at La Cambre near Brussels.
First abbess of Baindt, Germany.
Bartholomew de Vleeschouwer 1153-1250
Father of Bl Beatrice of Nazareth (August 29), and founder of three houses of the Cistercian Order. All his children entered religion, and he himself died at the convent of Nazareth in the habit of a lay-brother.
John-of-St-Basil Marion + 1593
Monk of the Congregation of Feuillants.
Stephen Maugier + 1637
A monk of La Charmoye, the cradle of the Strict Observance, Stephen became its abbot in 1608. With Octave Arnolfini and Abraham Largentier, he labored to promote the reform of the Order, and in 1623 the General Chapter appointed him vicar general of the reformed houses.
Lekai, p. 139
Paul John Charles + 1794
Prior of Sept-Fons, gentle, mild and devout. During the absence of the abbot, it fell to his lot to govern the monastery during the French Revolution. When the monastery was suppressed, he restored the community in the city of Montlucon, only to be expelled from there two years later. Having refused to take the unlawful oath, he was relegated to the pontoons and held there for nine months.
Symphorian Bernigaud + 1913
Monk of Sept-Fons, he was appointed to various offices and finally made definitor of the Order. He also conducted many retreats in Cistercian monasteries.
John of Caramola + 1339
A native of Toulouse, he went to a town in southern Italy called Charimonte where he worked as a day-laborer, living in poverty and simplicity. After some time he became a hermit in the mountains above the town. He lived there for many years; finally, being ill and partly crippled, he was admitted to the monastery of Sagittario, where he was particularly remarkable for his observance of silence and spirit of prayer.
MBS, p. 237
Edmunda Paula de Barth + 1805
A nun of Our Lady of Konigsbruck in Alsace. After its suppression during the French Revolution, she fled to the convent of La Sainte Volonte de Dieu in Switzerland and took part in the monastic odyssey of Dom de Lestrange. Finally she went with some of the nuns to Darfeld, Westphalia, where she ably governed the community for eight years.
John the Precursor 13th century
Monk of Villers, master of the lay-brothers.
Anthony Louis Desvignes de la Cerue + 1793
Last abbot of La Ferte. After his monastery was suppressed, he was betrayed and captured by revolutionaries. Taken to Paris, he was sentenced to be guillotined, but succumbed to his infirmities and old age before the death penalty was carried out.
Walter of Dickebusch + 1189
Abbot of the Dunes.
Malachy de Aso + 1606
A monk of Huerta, Spain, he was elected abbot of Armentera and subsequently of Rueda, and finally made bishop of Jaca.
Bl Beatrice c. 1200-1268
She was born in Thenis, Belgium, of pious parents, Bartholomew (August 24) and Gertrude. When she was five her mother died, and her father entrusted her to some Beguines in Leau for her education. A few years later in 1210 he brought her to the monastery of Florival which he had just founded. As a boarder there, she followed many points of the Cistercian life, and in her youthful fervor practised somewhat indiscreet penances. In 1216 she made profession as a Cistercian, together with her father, brother and two sisters. A short time later she was sent to La Ramee to learn the art of copying and illuminating manuscripts. There she formed a close friendship with Ida of Nivelles, slightly older but not yet professed. Ida exerted a very wholesome influence on Beatrice, recognized her great spiritual capacities and directed her towards a life of holiness. Her first great mystical grace occurred several days after Christmas as she was pondering the responsory, "Propter nimiam charitatem". After this she still had to undergo a long period of trials, purifications and temptations. During this time she attained to a remarkable purity of heart and an ardent, intense love of God. In 1236 she was elected prioress of the convent of Nazareth, founded by her father, and ably governed it for over thirty years until her death.
From an early age, Beatrice kept notes of her ascetical practices and spiritual experiences. The best known of these is The Seven Steps of Love in which she describes the soul's ascent to God.
Cistercian Studies, 1984:1, p. 31
"The soul full of love desires to serve Love without measure and beyond measure and human reasoning in a total service of fidelity."
"O holy desire of love, how powerful is your force in the soul that loves. It is a blessed suffering, a bitter torment, a prolonged torture, a living death, a dying life."
"Love does not consist in toil and suffering. But all who desire to arrive at love must seek it with awe, serve it with fidelity and exercise it with longing."
St Warren (Guerin) c. 1075-1150
A monk of Molesme, he joined the founders of Our Lady of the Alps in Switzerland. In 1113 he was elected its second abbot. He gathered the monks, who were living in groups of three or four, into a cenobitic community following the Rule of St Benedict. In 1138 they were incorporated into the Cistercian Order. Two years later Warren was chosen to be bishop of Sion in Switzerland. Each year he returned to Our Lady of the Alps for two or three weeks, and it was on one such visit that he died. St Bernard's Letter 254 is addressed to Warren and Letter 151 to his community.
St Amadeus c. 1110-1159
Born in Chatte, Dauphine, of the royal house of Franconia, when he was ten years old, his father, Lord Amadeus d'Hauterives (January 14), entered Bonnevaux, taking his young son with him. Not long afterwards, dissatisfied with the education the young Amadeus was receiving, he left with him for Cluny and later sent him to his kinsman, Conrad of Hohenstaufen, the future Emperor Conrad III.
In 1125, the younger Amadeus became a monk of Clairvaux where he remained for fourteen years. St Bernard then appointed him abbot of Hautecombe. This was a Benedictine house which had become affiliated with the Cistercians three years earlier. St Bernard had changed the site and it was Amadeus' task to supervise the construction of the new monastery, deal with hostile neighbors and establish the community in Cistercian living. This he did so ably that five years later the diocese of Lausanne, Switzerland chose him as bishop. In that office he again showed himself a true pastor and an able administrator.
His homilies in praise of the Blessed Virgin Mary are translated in Magnificat, CF 18.
"Let us gaze upon the glory of the Blessed Virgin, and entering the depth of so great a light, let us with swelling hearts and unspeakable joy hasten through the vivid brightness of the paths, saying with Solomon, 'Her paths are lovely and all her ways are peacable.' Yet who will be able to express the light and brightness of her paths?" Homily 2
Meyner 12th century
A canon of St Simeon's Church in Trier, Germany, he was moved by the admonitions of St Bernard to become a monk of Himmerod. There he held the offices of prior, procurator, grange master and novice master.
Bernarda Bea y Aznor + 1868
She governed the abbey of Tulebras, Spain, during the turbulent years which saw the passing of the old regime, the confiscation and closing of monasteries, and monks and nuns paid to leave the monastic life and return to the world. The Tulebras community, headed by Mother Bernarda, refused to leave; though no one made a move to turn them out, they had to live for years in penury and fear of being evicted.
Mother Bernards was a woman of great charity; simple, recollected, a soul of prayer. Her spiritual director described her as "a diamond set in clay."
Godeschalk von Volmuchtstein 13th century
A canon of St Peter's Church in Cologne, Germany, he entered Stromberg, the original site of Heisterbach, and lived there in great patience and piety.
Anthony + c. 1360
Abbot of San Salvatore di Settimo, Tuscany. Having resigned, he was chosen by the community to rule them a second time.