To the Illustrious Youth, Geoffrey de Perrone, and His Comrades.
He pronounces the youths noble because they purpose to lead the religious life, and exhorts them to perseverance.
To his beloved sons, Geoffrey and his companions, Bernard, called Abbot of Clairvaux, wishes the spirit of counsel and strength.
1. The news of your conversion that has got abroad is edifying many, nay, is making glad the whole Church of God, so that The heavens rejoice and the earth is glad (Ps. xcvi.11), and every tongue glorifies God. The earth shook and the heavens dropped at the presence of the God of Sinai (cf. Ps. lxviii.8, 9), raining on those days more abundantly than usual a gracious rain which God keeps for His inheritance (Ps. lxvii.9, 10, Vulg.). Never more will the cross of Christ appear void of effect in you, as in many sons of disobedience, who, delaying from day to day to turn to God, are seized by sudden death, and go down straightway to hell. We see flourish again under our eyes the wood whereon the Lord of Glory hung, who died not for His own nation only, But also that He should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad (S. John xi.52). He, yes, He Himself draws you, who loves you as His own flesh, as the most precious fruit of His cross, as the most worthy recompense of the blood he shed. If, then, the Angels Rejoice over one sinner that repenteth (S. Luke xv.10), how great must be their joy over so many, and those, too, sinners. The more illustrious they seemed for rank, for learning, for birth, for youth, the wider was their influence as examples of perdition. I had read, Not many noble, not many wise, not many mighty hath God chosen (1 Cor. i.26, 27). But to-day, through a miracle of Divine power, a multitude of such is converted. They hold present glory cheap, they spurn the charm of youth, they take no account of high birth, they regard the wisdom of the world as foolishness, they rest not in flesh and blood, they renounce the love of parents and friends, they reckon favours and honours and dignities as dung that they may gain Christ. I should praise you if I knew that this, your lot, were your own doing. But it is the finger of God, clearly a change due to the right hand of the Most High (cf. Ps. lxxvii.10, Vulg., lxxvi.11). Your conversion is a good gift and a perfect gift, without doubt descending from the Father of lights (S. James i.17). And so to Him we rightly bring every voice of praise who only doeth marvellous things, who hath caused that plenteous redemption that is in Him to be no longer without effect in you.
2. What, then, dearly beloved, remains for you to do, except to make sure that your praiseworthy purpose attain the end it deserves? Strive, therefore, for perseverance, the only virtue that receives the crown. Let there not be found among you Yea and Nay (2 Cor. i.18, sq.), that ye may be the sons of your Father which is in Heaven, with whom, you know, there is no variableness, neither shadow of turning (S. James i.17). You also, brethren, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord (2 Cor. iii.18). Take heed with all watchfulness not to be yourselves found light, inconstant, or wavering. For it is written, A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways (S. James i.8), and again, Woe be . . . to the sinner that goeth two ways (Ecclus. ii.12). And for myself, dearly beloved, I congratulate you, and myself not less, for, as I hear, I have been reckoned worthy of being chosen to have a part in this, your good purpose. I both give you my counsel and promise my help. If I am thought necessary, or, rather, if I be deemed worthy, I do not decline the task, and so far as in me lies will not fail you. With eager devotion I submit my shoulders to this burden, old though they be, since it is laid on me from heaven. With a glad heart and open arms, as they say, I welcome the fellow-citizens of the saints and servants of God. How gladly, according to the prophet's command, do I assist with my bread those that flee from the face of the sword, and bring water to the thirsty (cf. Is. xxi.14). The rest I have left to the lips of my, or rather your, Geoffrey. Whatsoever he shall say to you in my stead, that, doubt not, is my counsel.