Friday, August 20, 2010

Memorial: St. Bernard of Clairvaux - Cardinal Telesphore Toppo in Ottawa



Today's memorial recalls St. Bernard of Clairvaux, the founding abbot of Clairvaux Abbey in Burgundy, one of the most commanding Church leaders in the first half of the twelfth century as well as one of the greatest spiritual masters of all times and the most powerful propagator of the Cistercian reform.

He was born in Fontaines-les-Dijon in 1090 and entered the Abbey of Citeaux in 1112, bringing thirty of his relatives with him, including five of his brothers--his youngest brother and his widowed father followed later.

After receiving a monastic formation from St. Stephen Harding, he was sent in 1115 to begin a new monastery near Aube: Clairvaux, the Valley of Light. As a young abbot he published a series of sermons on the Annunciation. These marked him not only as a most gifted spiritual writer but also as the "cithara of Mary," especially noted for his development of Mary's mediatorial role.

Bernard's spiritual writing as well as his extraordinary personal magnetism began to attract many to Clairvaux and the other Cistercian monasteries, leading to many new foundations. He was drawn into the controversy developing between the new monastic movement which he preeminently represented and the established Cluniac order, a branch of the Benedictines. This led to one of his most controversial and most popular works, his Apologia.

Bernard's dynamism soon reached far beyond monastic circles. He was sought as an advisor and mediator by the ruling powers of his age. More than any other he helped to bring about the healing of the papal schism which arose in 1130 with the election of the antipope Anacletus II. It cost Bernard eight years of laborious travel and skillful mediation. At the same time he labored for peace and reconciliation between England and France and among many lesser nobles. His influence mounted when his spiritual son was elected pope in 1145.

At Eugene III's command he preached the Second Crusade and sent vast armies on the road toward Jerusalem. In his last years he rose from his sickbed and went into the Rhineland to defend the Jews against a savage persecution.

Although he suffered from constant physical debility and had to govern a monastery that soon housed several hundred monks and was sending forth groups regularly to begin new monasteries (he personally saw to the establishment of sixty-five of the three hundred Cistercian monasteries founded during his thirty-eight years as abbot), he yet found time to compose many and varied spiritual works that still speak to us today.

He laid out a solid foundation for the spiritual life in his works on grace and free will, humility and love. His gifts as a theologian were called upon to respond to the dangerous teachings of the scintillating Peter Abelard, of Gilbert de la Porree and of Arnold of Brescia. His masterpiece, his Sermons on the Song of Songs, was begun in 1136 and was still in composition at the time of his death. With great simplicity and poetic grace Bernard writes of the deepest experiences of the mystical life in ways that became normative for all succeeding writers.

For Pope Eugene he wrote Five Books on Consideration, the bedside reading of Pope John XXIII and many other pontiffs through the centuries. Bernard died at Clairvaux on 20 August 1153. He was canonized by Pope Alexander III on 18 January 1174. Pope Pius VII declared him a Doctor of the Church in 1830. --from M. Basil Pennington, OCSO, "St. Bernard of Clairvaux 1090-1153, Cistercian Doctor of the Church", in The Modern Catholic Encyclopedia (A Michael Glazier Book), Liturgical Press (1995) 82.

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St. Bernard de Clairvaux, Abbé, Docteur de l'Eglise (+ 1153): A quoi pouvait rêver dans l'éclat de sa jeunesse le fils de Tescelin, chevalier du duc de Bourgogne, et de dame Aleth de Montbard, si bonne chrétienne? de chasses ou de tournois? de chants de guerre ou de galantes conquêtes? En tous cas, certainement pas de vie monastique comme il en fera le choix à l'âge de vingt-trois ans. D'autant qu'il entraînait avec lui une trentaine de jeunes en quête d'absolu...

Dès 1115, après trois années de vie monastique à Citeaux, Bernard est envoyé à Clairvaux pour y fonder l'abbaye dont il restera père-abbé jusqu'à sa mort. Mais loin de rester cloîtré il parcourt les routes d'Europe devenant, comme on a pu l'écrire, «la conscience de l'Eglise de son temps».

Il vient plusieurs fois à Paris, à Saint Pierre de Montmartre, à la chapelle du Martyrium, à la chapelle Saint Aignan où il vient prier souvent devant la statue de la Vierge qui se trouve maintenant à Notre-Dame de Paris. Sa correspondance abondante avec des princes, des frères moines ou des jeunes gens qui requièrent son conseil ne l'empêche pas de se consacrer à la contemplation tout autant qu'à l'action directe dans la société de son temps.

Infatigable fondateur, on le voit sur sa mule, traînant sur les routes d'Europe sa santé délabrée et son enthousiasme spirituel. Sa réforme monastique l'oppose à l'Ordre de Cluny dont il jugeait l'interprétation de la règle de saint Benoît trop accommodante. A sa mort, en 1153, ce sont trois cent quarante-trois abbayes cisterciennes qui auront surgi du sol européen.

Au cours de l'audience générale, le 21 octobre 2009, le Pape a évoqué la figure de Bernard de Clairvaux (1090-1153), considéré comme le dernier Père de l'Eglise car il relança et rénova la théologie des Pères des premiers siècles. Né en Bourgogne, il entra à vingt ans au monastère de Citeaux, et le troisième abbé, saint Etienne Harding, l'envoya fonder en 1115 celui de Clairvaux, dont il devint l'abbé. Il "y introduisit une vie sobre et mesurée à tout point de vue, nourriture, habillement, bâtiments, tournée également vers l'assistance aux pauvres".

Ce fut le succès de Clairvaux, dont la communauté ne cessa de grandir et d'essaimer. "Bernard entretint une vaste correspondance et composa de nombreux sermons et traités. A partir de 1130, il s'intéressa aux graves problèmes qui affectaient l'Eglise et la papauté. Il combattit aussi l'hérésie cathare dont les fidèles dépréciaient le Créateur en méprisant la matière et le corps. Il condamna la montée de l'anti-sémitisme et défendit les juifs".

Benoît XVI a ensuite indiqué que les aspects majeurs de la doctrine de saint Bernard regardaient Jésus et Marie. "S'il n'apporta pas d'orientations nouvelles à la recherche théologique, il s'est révélé être un théologien contemplatif et mystique" pour qui "la connaissance de Dieu est une expérience profondément personnelle du Christ et de son amour".

Ceci est valable pour tout chrétien car la foi est avant tout recherche de l'amitié de Jésus. Bernard ne doutait pas non plus que l'on parvient à Jésus par Marie. Ainsi souligna-t-il "la place privilégiée de la Vierge dans l'économie du salut, due à la participation de la Mère au sacrifice du Fils". Les réflexions de saint Bernard, a ajouté le Saint-Père, "interpellent justement, aujourd'hui encore, théologiens et croyants.

Trop souvent on entend résoudre par la seule force de la raison les questions fondamentales sur Dieu, l'homme et le monde. En se fondant sur la Bible et les Pères, Bernard montre que sans une foi profonde, alimentée par la prière et la contemplation... toute réflexion sur les mystères de Dieu risque de n'être qu'un simple exercice intellectuel sans la moindre crédibilité.

La théologie conduit à la science des saints, à leurs intuitions des mystères et à leur sagesse, don de l'Esprit, référence de toute pensée théologique... au final, le modèle le plus authentique du théologien et de l'évangélisateur est l'apôtre Jean, qui appuya sa tête sur le coeur du Maître".
(source: VIS 091021 410)

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O God who made of the Abbot Saint Bernard a man consumed with zeal for your house and a light shining and burning in your Church, grant, through his intercession, that we may be on fire with the same spirit and walk always as children on light. Through our Lord.

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CARDINAL TOPPO IN CANADA

Yesterday, I had the honour of meeting Cardinal Toppo who is in North America to promote interest and garner support for his dream, shared by the Catholic Bishops Conference of India, that of a new teaching hospital that would serve the needs of the poor in northern India. Having met the Speaker of the Senate, Senator Kinsella on several occasions, His Eminence accepted an invitation from him to explain this project to parties interested in assisting India and to attend a reception and dinner in his honour last evening on Parliament Hill.

Here are couple of photos from his visit to my office and the dinner:




This is some of the information available on several websites on this leader of the Church in India and on the global scene:

Cardinal Telesphore Placidus TOPPO, 70, is the Archbishop of Ranchi in the Northeast of India. Named a cardinal on October 21, 2003, he is a Cardinal Priest of the Roman Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Agony at Vitinia.

Born on October 15, 1939 in Chainpur (India), the 8th of 10 children, he studied in Ranchi and Rome and speaks his native Oraon, as well as Hindu, Sadri, English and Italian; he was ordained a priest on 3 May 1969. Appointed Bishop of Dumka at the age of 38 on June 8, 1978 (one of the last episcopal appointments by Pope Paul VI) and consecrated on 7 October 1978 by Archbishop Kerkatta of Ranchi. Named Coadjutor Archbishop of Ranchi on November 8, 1984, he succeeded to full governance of the Archdiocese on August 7, 1985.

A festive celebration of his Silver Jubilee as Archbishop of Ranchi will take place on October 7 this year.

Ad multos annos, Your Eminence!

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