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A letter from Bernard of Clairvaux

Translated letter: 

Men have heard that I have a certain favor with you, and many who are going to Jerusalem ask to be commended by me to your excellence.  Among whom is this young relative of mine, a youth, they say, forceful in arms, sweet in manners.  And I rejoice that he chose in this time to fight for God rather than the world.  And so do as you are accustomed, and let all be well for him, for my sake, as you have to all my other relatives, who were able to know you through me.   For the rest, beware lest desire of the flesh and temporal glory impede your journey to the heavenly kingdom. For what good is it to reign on earth for a few days and be deprived of the eternal kingdom of the heavens.  But I trust in the Lord that you will do better, and if the testimony offered by my dearest uncle Andreas, in whom we deeply believe, is true, you will reign here and in eternity, with God’s mercy.  Give care to pilgrims, the poor, and particularly the enclosed, since God is drawn by such sacrifices.  Write to us frequently, since it will do you no harm and it will do us good, if we know good about you fully and certainly.


Original letter: 

Audierunt homines, quod locum gratiae habeam apud vos, et multi profecturi Ierosolymam petunt se vestrae excellentiae per me commendari.  Ex quibus est iste iuvenis consanguineus meus, iuvenis, ut aiunt, strenuus in armis, suavis in moribus.  Et gaudeo quod ad tempus elegit militare Deo magis quam saeculo.  Itaque facite morem vestrum, et bene sit huic propter me, sicut ceteris omnibus propinquis meis fuit, qui per me vobis innotescere potuerunt.  De cetero cavete, ne voluptas carnis et gloria temporalis impediant vobis iter regni caelestiae.  Nam quid prodest paucis diebus regnare super terram, et regno caelorum aeterno privari?  Sed confido in Domino quod melius facietis, et si verum est testimonium quod vobis perhibet carissimus avunculus meus Andreas, cui multum credimus, et hic, et in aeternum Deo miserante regnabitis.  Peregrinis, egenis et maxime inclusis curam impendite, quia TALIBUS HOSTIIS PROMERETUR DEUS.  Scribite nobis frequentius, quia et vobis non oberit, et nobis proderit, si esse vestrum et bona studia plenius certiusque noverimus.


Historical context: 

Bernard writes to commend a nephew who is coming to fight in Jerusalem to her care, as he has done for other relations.   He includes a brief moral lesson, tempered by the positive report of his uncle, Andreas de Montbard,  master of the crusading order, Militia Templi.    (Cf. Bernard’s letter to Andreas, ep.288), expressing sympathy on the bad situation in the Holy Land.)

Printed source: 

Sancti Bernardi Opera, ed. J. LeClercq and H. Rochais (Rome: Eds. Cisterciennes, 1979), ep.206.





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