Who is Saint Bernard?

Who is Saint Bernard?


My name is Mother Johanna Marie Melnyk. I’m the Superior of the Olivetan Benedictine
Sisters of Jonesboro, and I’m also Chair of the Governing Board for St. Bernards Healthcare. Today, I’d like to talk to you about a question
that I have been asked many times, and that you’ll probably be asked in your work for St. Bernards. The question is, “Who was Saint Bernard, and why is our Healthcare system dedicated to him?” Well, first I have to tell you that he’s not
the most famous Saint Bernard. The most famous one is St. Bernard of Clairvaux,
a twelfth-century cistercian monk who was famous for his sermons and his writings, all of which are still in print today. The breed of dogs called Saint Bernards is
named after him. Our Saint Bernard is Saint Bernard Tolomei. He was born in 1272 in Siena, Italy to a wealthy family. He began a career in law, but he also chose
to volunteer helping the sick at a local hospital. He was part of a group of Christians who wanted
to dedicate themselves to prayer and good works Eventually he felt called to dedicate his
entire life to God so he ceased to practice law, and with two of his friends, he moved
out of the city of Siena to the countryside. There together, they started a life of prayer
and simple manual labor, mostly in silence. They gained a reputation for holiness pretty
quickly, and so other men came to join them in this life. They chose to follow the ancient rule of Saint
Benedict, a guide to dedicating your life to God. This made them known as Benedictines. They called their monastery “Monte Oliveto”, or the mount of olives, so they became known as Olivetan Benedictines. Saint Bernard had a dream of his Olivetan
Benedictine monks climbing up to heaven on a silver ladder, wearing white robes, so from
that time on, they began to wear white. That monastery of Monte Oliveto outside Siena
is still a living monastery today, and the Olivetan Benedictine Sisters of Jonesboro
are affiliated to them, and of course, that’s why we wear white. Saint Bernard probably figured that he would
live out his life in this peaceful monastery, but in 1348 the plague struck Siena, bringing
suffering and death to thousands of people, so Saint Bernard Tolomei made a choice. He and his monks went back into the city of
Siena to care for the sick. In the end, he and half of those monks died
in the plague. They were buried in a mass grave, unmarked,
so that today, we don’t even know where Saint Bernard is buried. I thnk you can tell from this story why he
is our patron at St. Bernards Healthcare. He lived the mission of Christ-like healing
to a heroic degree. Jesus said, the two greatest commandments
are loving God and loving your neighbor as yourself. Saint Bernard Tolomei models the fulfillment
of both of those commandments. I hope his story will inspire you in your work at
St. Bernards as it has inspired the Olivetan Benedictines since 1348. God Bless You!

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