Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Bernard, Francis, Anselm

"O gentle Jesus, turn Thee unto me; What I have broken do Thou bind in me, And what is crooked make Thou straight in me; What I have lost restore Thou unto me, And what is weak and sickly heal in me."  ~St. Bernard of Clairvaux

That beautiful prayer was posted this evening on the Renovare page on facebook. I was happy to see it, both because I needed its heartfelt words, and because I've been thinking a good bit about Bernard of Clairvaux.

We started our introduction to the Crusades yesterday, and as usual, I am finding Bernard a tough guy to figure out. I like to segue into church history whenever I can in the course of our usual history studies, and during this period of the Middle Ages, with the church in such a position of power and cultural influence (for good and for ill) it's easy to make that jump.

What to say about Bernard? One of the most influential preachers of his age, he seemed to overflow with a true love for Christ ("gentle Jesus") and an understanding of his own deep failures. Yet he preached the first Crusade. Granted, we can't hold him responsible for all that came after, in that war or subsequent ones, but it's still hard to reconcile that fact with some of his prayers. At least for me at the moment.

Interesting side note: out of curiosity I went looking in our library system to see if I could find anything age-appropriate about Bernard for children. One book title popped up, and it was some sort of anthology (and only available as reference, not for check-out). By contrast, a quick search on children's resources on Francis of Assisi returned 34 titles, some of them quite recent. There seems to be about one new children's book on Francis each year. It's just interesting to see which saints speak to (or "translate") to our time and culture -- or at least seem to translate according to whomever is deciding what's appropriate and edifying for kids to read about saints.

And one more note: really thankful as we discussed the Crusades to have St. Anselm's prayers and meditations close to hand. We read from his prayer for his enemies. So good to have that clear, clear, humble prayer washing in from the past and landing on our shores yesterday.

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