Bernard of Clairvaux and Conversion

Today the Catholic Church celebrates the memorial of St. Bernard, a Cistercian monk and a Doctor of the Church. Although not actually the founder of the Cistercian order, he is honored as such because of his work in strengthening the order and its works.

Despite being quite active in the affairs of the church in his time, Bernard authored a number of works in addition to the many sermons he delivered.

On the question os what is necessary for a true conversion of the soul, Bernard wrote:

Neither fear nor self-interest can convert the soul. They may change the appearance, perhaps even the conduct, but never the object of supreme desire… Fear is the motive which constrains the slave; greed binds the selfish man, by which he is tempted when he is drawn away by his own lust and enticed (James 1:14). But neither fear nor self-interest is undefiled, nor can they convert the soul. Only charity can convert the soul, freeing it from unworthy motives.

As we pray in the Collect for today’s Mass, let us pray that we may be “on fire with the same spirit” that animated St. Bernard, “a man consumed with zeal” that we may “walk always as children of light.”