Cistercian Saints

January 10
St. William of Bourges, Bishop of Our Order

William de Don Jeon was born at Nevers France. He was educated by his uncle Peter, archdeacon of Soissons, became a canon of Soissons and of Paris and then became a monk at Grandmont Abbey. He became a Cistercian at Pontigny, served as Abbot at Fontaine-Jean in Sens, and in 1187 became Abbot at Chalis near Senlis. He was named Archbishop of Bourges in 1200, accepted on the order of Pope Innocent III and his Cistercian superior, lived a life of great austerity, was in great demand as a confessor, aided the poor of his See, defended ecclesiastical rights against seculars, even the king, and converted many Albigensians during his missions to them. He died at Bourges on January 10, and was canonized in 1218 by Pope Honorius III. His feast day is January 10th.

January 12
St. Aelred, Abbot of Our Order

Born in Hexham, he was educated there and in Durham. As a young man, he lived at the Scottish court. He entered Rievaulx in 1134, became novice master, then first abbot of Revesby. In 1147 he was elected abbot of Rievaulx, which post he maintained, in spite of increasing ill-health, until his death. His writings include The Mirror of Charity, On Spiritual Friendship, Rule for a Recluse, Jesus at the Age of Twelve, Pastoral Prayer. His was a radiant and sympathetic personality, unique among the writers and abbots of that age. Highly gifted, strong both to do and to suffer, he was an abbot whose wisdom appeared primarily in his personal love and sympathy and his wise direction of souls. As his disciple and biographer Walter Daniel could say: “He who loved us all was deeply loved by us in return, and counted this the greatest of all his blessings.” His last words were, “Festinate, for crist luve.” Walter Daniel explains: “He spoke the Lord`s name in English, since he found it easier to utter, and in some way sweeter to hear in the language of his birth.

January 26
Our Holy Fathers St. Robert, St. Alberic and St. Stephen, Founders of the Cistercian Order
St Alberic

Nothing is known of his origins or early life. According to the Exordium Parvum he was “a man of letters, well versed in divine and human science.” He became a disciple of St Robert, first at Colan and later at Molesme, where he was Prior. He was a prime mover in the desire for reform which led to the foundation of Citeaux. There he was again prior, and shortly after Robert`s return to Molesme, was elected second abbot. It fell to Alberic to effect the consolidation of the New Monastery, both materially and morally. One of his first moves was to obtain a bull of papal protection for Citeaux from Pope Paschal II. Finding the original site unsuitable, he moved the location of the monastery a short distance away, and saw to the construction of the permanent buildings. He was probably responsible for the first “Institutes” of Citeaux. He died after ten years in office.

St Robert of Molesme

Of noble parentage, in his early youth he entered the Benedictine abbey of Montier-la-Celle near Troyes, and sometime after 1053 became their abbot. During the following years he took part in several cenobitic and eremetical experiments, and in 1075 founded Molesme in the diocese of Langres. This community prospered and became one of the more successful reform abbeys of the late 11th century, dedicated to Robert`s ideals of the ascetic standards of the desert practised within a monastic framework. However, its very success and expansion made it difficult for the small group of founders to maintain their control, and it gradually became more and more like the neighboring Cluniac abbeys.In 1097 Robert and some of his monks, among them Alberic and Stephen, obtained permission from Hugh, the papal legate, to make a new foundation and early in 1098 they set out for Citeaux. However, the monks of Molesme appealed to the Pope for Robert to return as their abbot, which he did, obediently if reluctantly, and he governed that house until his death.

St Stephen Harding

St Stephen was born to noble Anglo-Saxon parents about 1060 and as a youth he spent some time in the Benedictine Abbey of Sherborne in Dorsetshire. At the Norman conquest he had to flee to Scotland and then to France where he completed his studies in Paris. With a fellow-refugee from England, Peter, he undertook a pilgrimage to Rome and there he became assured of his monastic vocation. On their return to France, they both entered Molesme and from there went to Citeaux in 1098. On St Alberic`s death in 1109, the monks elected Stephen to succeed him. During his abbacy of twenty-five years, due in large part to his creative genius as organizer and legislator, Citeaux grew from a single reformed community to what was in effect the first “Order” in monastic history, held together by a firm legal framework and in the process of unprecedented expansion. His scholarly bent and his zeal for authencity led him to search for the true Ambrosian hymn texts and melodies, and to undertake the restoration of the Vulgate of St Jerome. He fostered the simplified liturgy and architecture which were to characterize the Cistercians. His concern for the unity of all Cistercian houses gave rise to the Charter of Charity, with its admirable balance between central authority and local autonomy. Not the least of his accomplishments was the spiritual formation of St Bernard, whom he received as a novice in 1113. In 1133, St Stephen resigned his office and in the following year he died at Citeaux in great peace and joy.

March 8
St. Stephen of Obazine, Abott of Our Order

He was born in Aquitaine in 1085. When the vanity of the world`s interests became apparent, he turned to God, was ordained to the priesthood, and felt drawn to the eremetical life. He and a friend, Peter, established a hermitage near Tulle, France, and soon disciples came to their retreat. Stephen built a monastery and in 1142 reluctantly became the abbot of a growing community. The desire of the wives and sisters of the monks to embrace the same life saw fulfillment in a similar monastery built for them by Stephen.With the approval of Pope Eugene in 1147, Obazine became affiliated to Citeaux, which meant for Stephen the abandonment of cherished penitential practices. While on visitation at a daughterhouse, Bonnaigue, he became seriously ill and died there. 

April 26                                                                                                                      St. Raphael Arnaiz Baron, Oblate of Our Order

Born in Burgos, Spain. As a young man he was active in the Apostleship of Prayer, Nocturnal Adoration and Our Lady`s Sodality. He studied architecture in Madrid, but left a promising career to enter the monastery of San Isidro in 1934. Due to diabetes, he was obliged to leave the monastery three times but each time he returned despite the heroic immolation that such re-entries exacted of him. He made a total and absolute offering of himself to God in hiddenness and silence. After his death, his virtues and writings became known and the cause for his beatification was introduced. The diocesan process was successfully completed in 1967, and he was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1992, and canonized in 2009 by Pope Benedict XVI. 

June 12                                                                                                                         St. Alice (Aleydis), Virgin of Our Order

Alice was brought to the convent of La Cambre, near Brussels, Belgium, at seven to be educated, and later was professed as a nun. Sometime afterward, she was found to have contracted leprosy and was isolated from her community. Her first night in her leper`s hut was one of real anguish and crisis for her, but seeking consolation from Christ, she began to realize that she had received a new vocation: to be identified with the Suffering Servant, with him whom “we thought of as a leper, as one struck by God.” In her isolation, her love of God and of all humanity deepened, and she learned to accept each new pain as a gift from God. Toward the end of her life, no part of her body was without suffering except her tongue, and with it for as long as she was able, she chanted the praises of God. On the feast of St Barnabas in 1250, she commended herself to God and the following morning just at dawn, as if taking her rest, she breathed forth her soul.

June 14
Blessed Gerard, Monk of Our Order

The second oldest of St Bernard’s brothers, Gerard was a knight and soldier. When he refused to follow his brother to Citeaux, the latter foretold that he would be wounded in battle and imprisoned, and so it happened. In prison, he came to his senses, and having been set free, miraculously according to the Life of St Bernard, he became a monk and with his brothers went to Clairvaux, where he was cellarer. He was a capable administrator and also a wise counsellor to Bernard. He received those who came to the monastery and when possible, took care of their business, so as to spare his abbot from being interrupted unnecessarily in his prayer and writing. On his last night on earth, he began to pray, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Suddenly his face became transfigured and he kept repeating, “Father, Father,” as though the full realization of what it means that God is our Father had dawned upon him.St Bernard, having restrained his grief at Gerard`s funeral, gave eloquent voice to it in his twenty-sixth Sermon on the Canticle.

June 16
Ste. Lutgard, Virgin of Our Order

Born of bourgeois parents in Tongres, Belgium, Lutgarde`s father had planned a marriage for his daughter, but when the money invested for her dowry was lost, her mother persuaded her to enter the Benedictine convent of St Trond, where she was elected prioress in 1205. Seeking more solitude and a stricter observance, she transferred to the Cistercian convent of Aywieres. The Passion of Christ was the center of her religious life. There took place between Christ and Lutgarde a mystical change of hearts. In her 29th year, she received the spear wound and carried the scar to her death. The ideal of vicarious suffering in reparation for sin was highly developed in her spirituality. She undertook, at Our Lady`s request, three seven-year fasts, in reparation for the Albigensian heresy. She was also sought by many, including abbots and Dominican friars, for the help of her counsel and intercessory prayers. Eleven years before her death, she became blind. During the last year of her life Christ asked three things of her: to offer thanks for all the benefits she had received; to pour herself out in prayer for sinners; to be without solicitude but full of longing.

July 8
Blessed Eugene III, Pope of Our Order

Bernard Paganelli was born of poor parents in Pisa, Italy. He came under St Bernard`s influence in 1134 and followed him to Clairvaux. In 1140 Bernard sent him as founding superior of Tre Fontane in Rome. While filling this office, to his surprise and dismay, at the death of Pope Lucius III, the cardinals elected him Pope. His reign of eight years was filled with political and ecclesiastical crises, among them his frequent exiles from Rome, the foment caused by Arnold of Brescia and the failure of the Second Crusade. He held synods and the important Council of Rheims. Profiting from St Bernard`s advice, (De Consideratione, CF 37), he remained faithful to his monastic vocation amidst all the viscissitudes of his reign. In 1147 he attended the General Chapter at Citeaux, remarkable for his humility and simplicity. He died six weeks before St Bernard.

July 11
Solemnity of Our Holy Father St. Benedict

The Solemnity of our Father, St Benedict, lawgiver of our Order.  

July 16
Solemn Dedication of the Church of Our Lady of New Melleray
August 19
Saint Guerric, Abbot of Our Order

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.”

August 20
St. Bernard, Abbot and Doctor of Our Order

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.

(Taken from Nunraw Abbey Menology – August)

August 30
Sts. Warren and Amadeus, Bishops of Our Order

St Warren (Guerin)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

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.

September 10
St. Oglerio, Abbot of Our Order

Abbot of Our Lady of Locedio in Italy, he was devoted to Mary and in his writings praised her prerogatives, especially the Immaculate Conception. Not only a man of learning, but of humility as well, he was found by Pope Innocent III to be an “instrument of peace” in settling quarrels among warring factions in Italy.

September 12
St. Peter of Tarentaise, Bishop of Our Order

Born of peasant stock, he became a monk at Bonnevaux, and in 1132 was sent as founding abbot of Tamie Abbey. He was appointed bishop of Tarentaise, a diocese in the Alps of Savoy, in 1141. He gave himself unsparingly to the needs of his diocese, preaching the word of God, caring for the poor and providing for the upkeep of churches. He also had the gift of healing the sick. He actively supported Pope Alexander III against Fredrick Barbarossa. Already ill a year before his death, Peter journeyed to Normandy to negotiate peace between Henry II of England and Louis VII of France, and it was on another peace-making mission from the Pope that he died at the monastery of Bellevaux.

September 17
Martin of Finojosa, Bishop of Our Order

Cistercian bishop of Siguenza, Spain. He was a Castilian, born into a prominent aristocratic family. After becoming a Cistercian, he founded the abbey of Huerta, near Soria, in 1164. In 1185, he was made bishop, but he resigned seven years later to return to monastic life.

November 13
All Saints of the Benedictine Family