Stephen Harding was born in Dorset, England, the son of a nobleman. At a young age, Stephen’s parents delivered him to the abbey at Sherbourne, consecrating him to the Lord, and entrusting the monks there to raise their son. Proficient in English, French, and Latin, Stephen demonstrated an incredible aptitude for his studies, but became dissatisfied with the corruption in the monastery at Sherbourne. He became\a traveling scholar, continuing his studies in Paris and Rome. Eventually, Stephen settled at the abbey of Molesme in Burgundy, serving the abbot there, Saint Robert of Molesme.
|Cistercian Monastery at Citeaux|
Saint Bernard of Clairvaux visited in 1112 and brought with him his followers. Between 1112 and 1119, a dozen new Cistercian houses were founded to contain the monks coming to the new movement. In 1115, for example, Saint Stephen built the abbey of Clairvaux, and installed St. Bernard as its Abbot. From it 800 abbeys were born.
Carta Caritatis, ('Charter of Love'), the document which established the charter and unifying principles for the Cistercian Order. The Charter of Love (also referred to as the Charter of Charity) was a six page constitution which laid out the relationship between the Cistercian houses and their abbots, set out the obligations and duties inherent in these, and ensured the accountability of all the abbots and houses to the underlying themes of charity and living according to the rule of Benedict.
"I assure you that I go to God in fear and trembling. If my baseness should be found to have ever done any good, even in this I fear, lest I should not have preserved that grace with the humility and care I ought."
"Stephen Harding found Cîteaux just another reformed abbey, and left it the head of the first (European) religious order ... Nothing like it had ever been seen before ... At the head of a flourishing family of daughter houses, with a clearly defined manifesto and full legal constitution, Cîteaux was a force for change, and a force to be reckoned within a world where (other leaders) vied to outdo each other in accruing and displaying wealth and power.”
Saint Stephen instructed and formalized his brothers in the tenets of monastic life: Obedience, Poverty, Chastity, Silence, Prayer and Work. His life was a balance of practicality and devotion, spending his days in prayer for the blessings of the Lord upon the order, while attending to the practical daily management of many monasteries. Throughout his accomplishments, he remained humble and penitent, never taking credit for the successes and growth of the Cistercians, but instead, attributing all good things to the Lord. Today, we pray for the practicality and devotion of Saint Stephen Harding, as we journey toward Easter.
Year 2: Day 86 of 365
Prayer Intentions: A life balanced in practicality and devotion to the Lord.
Requested Intentions: Health for a soon to be delivered baby (T); Financial security (L); Healing of tooth pain (A); Health of expectant mother and child (R); Purification of the souls in Purgatory (A); Guidance in studies (J); Healing and security for a displaced family (C); Healing of high blood pressure; Recovery of brother following surgery (A); For a sister in trouble, that she may make better decisions in the light of Christ (M); Health of expectant mother and child (R); Attainment of funds for surgery (J); Freedom from financial difficulties (E); For employment and college acceptance (E); Recovery and healing of a friend (C); For successful outcome to surgery (C); Healing for brother (M); Successful employment (C); For the victims of the Japanese tsunami/earthquake (J); Healing (E); For a son struggling with depression (B); Successful conception (M); Freedom from social anxiety; confidence in the Lord (J); Improved success in employment and studies (D); Freedom from illness (T); For a wife’s employment (E); Healing of a husband’s knee (M); Freedom from sickness (R); Healing (C); Restoration of marriage (F); Freedom from medical difficulties, employment, successful relationship (D); Healing of a father following stroke (S).