Angelus Message on St. Bernard
Dear brothers and sisters,
Today the calendar lists among the saints of the day St. Bernard of Claravalls (Clairvaux,Fr.; Chiaravalle,It.) a great doctor of the Church who lived in the 12th century (1091-1153). But his example and his teachings have shown themselves to be even more useful in our time.
Having retired from the world after a period of intense interior work, he was elected abbot of the Cistercian monastery of Clairvaux at age 25, and remaining so for the next 35 years until his death.
Dedicating himself to silence and contemplation did not keep him from carrying out intense apostolic work. He was also exemplary for the commitment with which he fought to dominate his impetuous temperament, as for the humility with which he recognized his own limitations and failings.
The richness and value of his theology lay not so much in having opened new ways of thought but in succeeding to restate the truths of the faith in a style so clear and incisive as to fascinate his listeners and inspire them to meditation and prayer.
In each of his writings we sense the echo of a rich interior experience which he managed to communicate to others in a surprisingly persuasive manner.
For him, the greatest force in spiritual life was love. God who is love created man to love, and rescued him through love. The salvation of all human beings, mortally wounded by original sin and weighed down with our own personal sins, consists in firm adherence to divine charity which is fully revealed in Christ crucified and resurected.
Through His love, God restores health to our will and our intelligence, elevating them to the highest level of union with Him, namely, to holiness and to mystical union. It is this which St. Bernard writes about, among other things, in the brief but substantial Liber de deligendo Deo.
I also wish to point out another writing by him, De consideratione,which was addressed to Pope Eugene III. The dominant theme here was the importance of interior meditation, an essential element of piety.
The saint observes that one must guard against the dangers of any excessive activity, under any condition or office, because this can lead to "hardness of heart"... which is "nothing else but a suffering of the spirit, a waywardness of intelligence, and a dispersion of grace" (II, 3).
His admonition is valid for any kind of occupation, even those concerned with the governing of the Church. The words which Bernard addresses in this respect to the Pope - already his disciple at Clairvaux - are provocative: "Here is where these concerns may lead you if you continue to lose yourselves in them - you will leave nothing of yourself for yourself" (ibid). How useful even for us this reminder to pray and meditate! May St. Bernard help us to concretize this in our own lives - he who knew how to harmonize the monk's desire for solitude in the quiet of the cloister with the urgency of important and complex missions in the service of the Church.
Let us entrust this wish to the intercession of Our Lady, whom he loved from boyhood with a filial and tender devotion that merits him the title of "Marian Doctor." Let us invoke her to obtain the gift of true and lasting peace for the entire world.
St. Bernard, in one of his famous speeches, likened Mary to the star which mariners look to in order not to lose course: "In the rise and fall of events in this world, one feels not to be walking on firm ground but to be buffeted between wind and waves. Do not take off your eyes from the splendor of this star if you do not wish to be swallowed by the waves...Look at the star, pray to Mary...Following her, you will not lose your way...If she protects you, you will not fear; if she guides you, you will not tire; if she favors you, you will reach your goal" (Hom. super Missus est, II, 17).
After the Angelus, he said this in English:
I am happy to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present for this Sunday Angelus. In today’s Gospel Jesus reveals himself as the Bread of Life, who comes down
from Heaven. May our celebration of the Lord’s Day be always a time of joyful thanksgiving for the gift of new life in Christ! I wish you all a pleasant stay in Castel Gandolfo and Rome, and a blessed Sunday!
Papa Ratzinger forum