The Family That Overtook Christ

Today is the feast day of St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153). For many people, unfortunately, St. Bernard is merely a big, lovable breed of working dog. Even those of us with Catholic sensibilities might not know too much about him. Maybe we remember that he was devoted to Our Lady (which saint wasn’t?), and that he is believed to be the author of the prayer commonly known as the Memorare (“Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary . . .”). But even that’s probably pushing it.

It’s a shame we don’t know more about him, because Bernard was no ordinary monk. His singular holiness, his amazing zeal, his prolific spiritual writing, his founding of dozens of monasteries, his decisive, godly impact on ecclesial and world affairs during his incredible life are all a matter of historical record.

Yesterday my family just finished as our dinnertime reading The Family That Overtook Christ (Daughers of St. Paul, 1986). It’s the story of St. Bernard’s remarkable family. His father Tescalin has been declared “Venerable” by the Church, and his mother, Alice, his sister Humbeline, and his brothers Guy, Gerard, Andrew, Bartholomew, and Nivard have all been declared “Blessed.” It’s one of the most edifying things I’ve read in a long time. One of the most challenging, too. The holy siblings frequently attributed their exceptional religious formation to their parents, who truly raised a generation of saints. Isn’t that the goal of all of us Catholic parents? May we single-mindedly lead our families in pursuit of Christ.

Bernard was no ordinary monk. In fact, he is no ordinary saint. He is one of only 33 saints to have been declared a “doctor of the Church,” whose exceptional, timeless teaching is a sure guide for all of us in our own journey to God.

Now maybe some of us have heard of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, and a few of us may even have known about the Memorare. But how many of us have bothered to pick up one of St. Bernard’s classic works, such as his Treatise on the Love of God or his commentary on the Song of Songs?

fulfillment3d.gifI realize that these spiritual classics aren’t as readily available in bookstores as the Da Vinci Code. And even if we found them, we might find them a bit daunting or intimidating. That’s why I’m so grateful to Ralph Martin for writing The Fulfillment of All Desire ( In Fulfillment, he takes the writings of seven great doctors of the Western Church, including St. Bernard, and presents them in a systematic, easy-to-read way. Heck, even Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, the Pope’s personal preacher and retreat master, has heartily endorsed this book for all who want to grow in the spiritual life.

So, in gratitude to God for lifting up holy teachers like St. Bernard of Clairvaux, I’d like to conclude with the opening prayer for today’s Mass:

Heavenly Father, Saint Bernard was filled with zeal for your house and was a radiant light in Your Church. By his prayers may we be filled with this spirit of zeal and walk always as children of light.

We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The Fulfillment of All Desire is available in both hardbound and paperback editions through Emmaus Road Publishing (, a division of Catholics United for the Faith (CUF). Join CUF today at and get 10% off on your purchase of The Fulfillment of All Desire.

4 responses

  1. I love learning about the early church fathers! I am new to the fullness of the Catholic Faith and I have found the information about the saints to be very helpful. I have also found the “saint days” to be helpful in this learning.

  2. This was my favourite book as a child, and I still love it! I recommend it to friends, but the copies I see are all so expensive. I was able to procure one for my own that had Bro. Raymond’s note he wrote to someone named Nick on Abbey of Gethsemani paper 1/4/79. It’s one of my prized possessions! :o) I’m glad to see other people who appreciate the amazing journey to the Lord that this beautiful family went through.

  3. Good morning. Looking back thru my kept emails from a very dear Mother us last April 22 she from the congretation whose way of educating I will never cease to praise, I found one advising me to read this book she had liked so much and other details such as her telling me B.’s mother was called Alice, as she was too, a name she said meant Alegria, Joy, a name she hadnt liked until the day she knew it was the name of Bs mother.. so many things in each one’s lives… Right now I am facing the fact of having to go look for the results of a gammagraphy of the spine and I am not as brave as I should.. it is just seven blocks away… foolish! I know, cause if the news are good I will continue taking care of it with the pills and all as for the last 14 months, amidst the great pain I am getting used, yessss! to tolerate… and if they are bad, doctors and God will know the rest, but I want to share this thoughts of Hermana Alicia, she will never leave me the scarce “decades” left, if any, and whenever I get hold of 21 euro which is the price of the book here, I will buy it and read it and keep it on my night table till God wishes. Amidst of many trials and tribulations though knowing I am rich of God and Mary’s inconditional love, thanks to whoever might read these lines written from the bottom of the heart of an almost always strong woman who sometimes, just sometimes, slithers and gets up again. “From the ground” waiting to get up :)
    God bless.

  4. I just started reading it last night because my students will be reading it in preparation for their confirmation but I am already hooked. I pray that my students and I will run the race and overtake Christ. Please pray for us. May God bless us all.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *