3rd Letter of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux to Saint Malachy of Armagh

[Saint Bernard of Clairvaux and Saint Malachy of Armagh]To Malachy. 1143 or 1144.

To our most loving father and most revered lord, Malachy, by the grace of God bishop, legate of the Holy and Apostolic See, the servant of his holiness, Brother Bernard, called to be abbot of Clairvaux, health and our prayers, of whatever value they may be.

How sweet are thy words unto my taste, my lord and father. How pleasant is the remembrance of thy holiness. If there is any love, any devotedness, any good will in us, without doubt the charity of your belovedness claims it all as its due. There is no need for a multitude of words where affection blossoms abundantly. For I am confident that the Spirit which you have from God bears witness with your spirit that what we are, however small it be, is yours. You also, most loving and most longed-for father, deliver not to forgetfulness the soul of the poor man, which cleaves to thee with the bonds of charity, and forget not the soul of thy poor man for ever. For neither, as it were anew, do we commend ourselves unto you when now for a long time we glory in the Lord that our littleness has been worthy to find grace in the sight of your holiness; but we pray that our affection, no longer new, may advance with new accessions day by day. We commend to you our sons, yea also yours, and the more earnestly because they are so far removed from us. You know that, after God, all our trust was in you, in sending them, because it seemed to us wrong not to fulfil the prayers of your holiness. See, as becomes you, that with your whole heart of love you embrace them and cherish them. In no wise for any cause let your earnest care for them grow cold, nor let that perish which thy right hand hath planted.

We have now indeed learned both from your letter and from the report of our brothers that the house is making good progress, [and] is being enriched both in temporal and spiritual possessions. Wherefore we rejoice greatly with you and give thanks with our whole heart to God and to your fatherly care. And because there is still need of great watchfulness, because the place is new, and the land unaccustomed to the monastic life, yea, without any experience of it, we beseech you in the Lord, that you slack not your hand, but perfectly accomplish that which you have well begun. Concerning our brothers who have returned from that place, it had pleased us well if they had remained. But perhaps the brothers of your country, whose characters are less disciplined and who have lent a less ready ear to advice in those observances, which were new to them, have been in some measure the reason for their return.

We have sent back to you Christian, our very dear son, and yours. We have instructed him more fully, as far as we could, in the things which belong to the [Cistercian] Order, and henceforth, as we hope, he will be more careful concerning its obligations. Do not be surprised that we have not sent any other brothers with him; for we did not find competent brothers who were ready to assent to our wishes, and it was not our plan to compel the unwilling. Our much-loved brother, Robert, assented on this occasion also to our prayers, as an obedient son. It will be your part to assist him that your house may now be set forward, both in buildings and in other necessaries. This also we suggest to your fatherhood, that you persuade religious men and those who, you hope, will be useful to the monastery, to come into their Order, for this will be of the greatest advantage to the house, and to you they will pay the greater heed. May your holiness have good health, being always mindful of us in Christ.