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LETTER XXXIII (A.D. 1132)

To Richard,5252    He had been Prior of the monastery of S. Mary, at York, which be quitted, followed by twelve other Religious, as we have seen above. He died at Rome, as may be seen in Mon. Anglic. p. 744. He had for successor another Richard, formerly sacristan of the same monastery of S. Mary, who died at Clairvaux (ibid., p. 745). He is mentioned in the 320th letter of S. Bernard. Abbot of Fountains,5353    The monastery of Fountains, in the Diocese of York, passed over to the Cistercian Rule in 1132. It is astonishing to read of the fervour of these monks in Monast. Anglican. Vol. i. p. 733 and onwards. Compare also Letters 313 and 320 for what relates to the death of Abbot Richard, the second of that name and Order. and His Companions, Who Had Passed, Over to the Cistercian Order from Another.

How marvellous are those things which I have heard and learned, and which the two Geoffries 130have announced to me, that you have become newly fervent with the fire from on high, that from weakness you have become strong, that you have flourished again with new sanctity.

This is the finger of God secretly working, softly renewing, healthfully changing not, indeed, bad men into good, but making good men better. Who will grant unto me to cross over to you and see this great sight? For that progress in holiness is not less wonderful or less delightful than that conversion. It is much more easy, in fact, to find many men of the world converted to good than one Religious who is good becoming better than he is. The rarest bird in the world is the monk who ascends ever so little from the point which he has once reached in the religious life. Thus the spectacle which you present, dearest brethren, is the more rare and salutary, not only to men who desire greatly to be the helper of your sanctity, but it rightly rejoices the whole Church of God as well; since the rarer it is the more glorious it is also. For prudence made it a duty to you to pass beyond that mediocrity so dangerously near to defect, and to escape from that lukewarmness which provokes God to reject you, it was even a duty of conscience for you to do so, since you know that it is not safe for men who have embraced the holy Rule to halt before having attained the goal to which it leads. I am exceedingly grieved that I am obliged by the pressing obligations of the day and the haste of the messenger to express the fulness of my affection with a pen so briefs and to comprise the breadth of my kindness 131for you within the narrow limits of this billet. But if anything is wanting, brother Geoffrey5454    This Geoffrey, “a holy and religious man,” who founded or reformed numerous monasteries, had been sent by Bernard to Fountains to train them according to the Rule of the Cistercian Order (Monast. Anglican. Vol. i. p. 741). Concerning the same Geoffrey see The Life of S. Bernard, B. iv. c. 2. will supply it by word of mouth.


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