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Letter XXIII (circa A.D. 1130)

To the Same

To his friend, Brother Bernard, of Clairvaux, all that a friend can wish for a friend.

1. You have given me this formula of salutation when you wrote, “to his friend all that a friend can wish.”3232     Suus ille quod suus. Receive what is thine own, and perceive that the assumption of it is a proof that we are of one mind, for my heart is not distant from him with whom I have language in common. I must now reply briefly to your letter, because of the time: for when it arrived the festival of the Nativity of our Lady3333    It was by the example of the Cistercians, as, I think, all of whose monasteries were dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, that she began to be called Our Lady. Hence, Peter Cellensis says of Bernard: “He was a most devoted child of Our Lady, to whom he dedicated not one church only, but the churches of the whole Cistercian Order” (B. vi. Ep. 23). had dawned; and being obliged to devote myself entirely to its solemnities, I had no leisure to think of anything else. Your messenger also was anxious to be gone; scarcely would he stay even 93until to-morrow morning that I might write to you these few words after all the Offices of the festival. I send back to you a fugitive brother after having subjected him to severe reprimand suited to his hard heart. It seemed to me that there was nothing better to do than to send him back to the place whence he had fled, since I ought not, according to our rules, to detain any monk in the house without the consent of his abbot. You ought to reprove him very severely also, and press him to make humble satisfaction and then comfort him a little by a letter from yourself addressed to his abbot on his behalf.

2. Concerning my state of health, I am not able to reply very precisely to your inquiry except that I continue, as in the past, to be weak and ailing, neither much better nor much worse. If I have not sent the person whom I had thought of sending, it is only because I feel much more the scandal to many souls than the danger of one body. Not to pass over any of the matters of which you speak to me, I come to yourself. You wrote that you wished to know what I desired you to do (as if I were aware of all that concerned you). But this plan, if I should say what I think, is one that neither I could counsel nor you carry out. I wish, indeed, for you what, as I have long known, you wish for yourself. But putting on one side, as is right, both your will and mine, I think more of what God wills for you, and, to my mind, it is both safer for me to advise you to that, and much more advantageous for you to do it. My advice is, then, that you continue to hold your present charge, to remain where you are, and study to profit those over whom you are set, nor flee from 94the cares of office while you are able to be of use, because woe to you if you are over the flock and do not profit them; but deeper woe still if, because you fear the cares of office, you abandon the opportunity of usefulness.


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