Excerpt: 1. It is indeed always worth while to portray the illustrious lives of the saints, that they may serve as a mirror and an example, and give, as it were, a relish to the life of men on earth. For by this means in some sort they live among us, even after death, and many of those who are dead while they live are challenged and recalled by them to true life. But now especially is there need for it because holiness is rare, and it is plain that our age is lacking in men. So greatly, in truth, do we perceive that lack to have increased in our day that none can doubt that we are smitten by that saying, Because iniquity shall abound the love of many shall wax cold; and, as I suppose, he has come or is at hand of whom it is written, Want shall go before his face. If I mistake not, Antichrist is he whom famine and sterility of all good both precedes and accompanies. Whether therefore it is the herald of one now present or the harbinger of one who shall come immediately, the want is evident. I speak not of the crowd, I speak not of the vile multitude of the children of this world: I would have you lift up your eyes upon the very pillars of the Church. Whom can you show me, even of the number of those who seem to be given for a light to the Gentiles, that in his lofty station is not rather a smoking wick than a blazing lamp? And, says One, if the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness! Unless perchance, which I do not believe, you will say that they shine who suppose that gain is godliness; who in the Lord’s inheritance seek not the things which are the Lord’s, but rather their own. Why do I say their own? He would be perfect and holy, even while he seeks his own and retains his own, who should restrain his heart and hands from the things of others. But let him remember, who seems to himself to have advanced perhaps thus far, that the same degree of holiness is demanded even of a gentile. Are not soldiers bidden to be content with their wages that they may be saved? But it is a great thing for a doctor of the Church if he be as one of the soldiers; or, if, in truth (as the prophet speaks to their reproach), it be as with the people so with the priest. Hideous! Is it so indeed? Is he rightly to be esteemed highest who, falling from the highest rank can scarce cleave to the lowest, that he be not engulfed in the abyss? Yet how rare is even such a man among the clergy! Whom, likewise, do you give me who is content with necessaries, who despises superfluities? Yet the law has been enjoined beforehand by the Apostles on the successors of the Apostles, Having food and raiment, let us be therewith content. Where is this rule? We see it in books, but not in men. But you have [the saying] about the righteous man, that the law of his God is in his heart, not in a codex. Nor is that the standard of perfection. The perfect man is ready to forgo even necessaries. But that is beside the mark. Would that some limit were set on superfluous things! Would that our desires were not infinite! But what? Perhaps you might find one who can achieve this. It would indeed be difficult; but [if we find him] see what we have done. We were seeking for a very good man, a deliverer of many; and lo, we have labour to discover one who can save himself. The very good man to-day is one who is not utterly bad. 2. Wherefore, since the godly man has ceased from the earth, it seems to me that I do not employ myself to no purpose when I recall to our midst, from among those who were redeemed from the earth, Bishop Malachy, a man truly holy, and a man, too, of our own time, of singular wisdom and virtue. He was a burning and a shining light; and it has not been quenched, but only removed.
Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, Paperback, ISBN 10: 153092801X, ISBN 13: 9781530928019