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SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : LETTER XVII To the Same

Some Letters Of Saint Bernard Abbot Of Clairvaux by Saint Bernard of Clairvaux

LETTER XVII To the Same

To the Same

He instructs Rainald, who was too anxious and distrustful, respecting the duty of superior which had been conferred upon him; and warns him that he must bestow help and solace upon his brethren rather than require it from them.

To his very dear son, Rainald, Abbot of Foigny, Bernard, that God may give him the spirit of strength.

1. You complain, my very dear son, of your many tribulations, and by your pious complaints you excite me also to complain, for I am not able to feel that you are sorrowing without sharing your sorrow, nor can I be otherwise than troubled and anxious when I hear of your troubles and anxieties. But since I foresaw these very difficulties which you say have happened to you, and predicted them to you, if you remember -- it seems to me that you ought to be better prepared to endure them, and to spare me vexation when you can, For am I not sufficiently tried, and more than sufficiently, to lose you, not to see you, nor to enjoy your society, which was so pleasant to me; so that I have almost regretted that I should have sent you away from me. And although charity obliged me to send you, yet not being able to see you where you have been sent, I mourn you as if lost to me. When, then, besides this, you who ought to be the staff of my support, belabour me as it were with the rod of your faintheartedness, you heap sorrow upon sorrow, and torment upon torment; and if it is a mark of your filial affection towards me that you do not hide any of your difficulties from me, yet it is hard to add fresh trouble to one already burdened. Why is it needful to occupy with fresh anxieties one already more than anxious enough, and to torture with sharper pains the bosom of a father, already wounded by the absence of his son? I have shared with you my weight of cares, as a son, as an intimate friend, as a trusty assistant; but how do you help to bear your father's burden, if, instead of relieving me, you burden me still more? You, indeed, are loaded, but I am not lightened of my load.

2. For this burden is that of sick and weak souls. Those who are in health do not need to be carried, and are not, therefore, a burden. Whomsoever, then, of your brethren you shall find sad, mean-spirited, discontented, remember well that it is of these and for their sakes, you are father and abbot. In consoling, in exhorting, in reproving, you do your duty, you bear your burden; and those whom you bear in order to cure, you will cure by bearing. But if any one is in such spiritual health that he rather helps you than is helped by you, recognize that to him you are not father and abbot, but equal and friend. Do not complain if you find more trials than consolations from those among whom you are. You were sent to sustain and console others, because you are spiritually stronger and better able to bear than they, and because with the grace of God you are able to aid and sustain all without needing yourself to be aided and sustained by any. Finally, if the burden is great, so also is the reward; but, on the other hand, the more assistance you receive, the more your own reward is diminished. Choose, therefore; if you prefer those who are for you a burden, your merit will be the greater; but if, on the contrary, you prefer those who console you, you have no merit at all. The former are the source whence it arises for you; the second as the abyss in which it is swallowed up; for it is not doubtful that those who are partakers of the labour, will be also sharers of the reward. Knowing, then, that you were sent to help, not to be helped, bear in mind that you are the vicar of Him who came not to be ministered unto, but to minister. I could have wished to write at greater length, in order to comfort you, but that it was not necessary; for what need is there of filling a dead leaf with superfluous words, while the living voice is speaking? I think that when you have seen our prior, these words will be sufficient for you, and your spirit will revive at his presence, so that you will not require the consolation of written words, in the delight and help which his discourse will give you. Do not doubt that I have communicated to him, as far as was possible, my inmost mind, which you begged in your letters might be sent to you. For you know well that he and I are of one mind and one will.

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