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SpiritualDirection.com / Catholic Spiritual Direction

Wisdom of the Saints

December 21, 2017 by  
Filed under Avila Institute, Kristin Aebli, Saints

Wisdom of the Saints 
St. Athanasius to St. Bernard of Clairvaux 
Wisdom of the Saints - StainedGlassStBernardOfClairvauxMNMA_Cl3273

Venerable Pope John Paul I said, “If all the sons and daughters of the church would know how to be tireless missionaries of the Gospel, a new flowering of holiness and renewal would spring up in this world that thirsts for love and for truth.”


As holy examples of God's people, the saints offer an abundance of wisdom and encouragement for the Church. The world needs saints! Everyone is called to holiness and hopefully, we may come to realize that becoming a saint is not solely for one’s own benefit, but is meant for the good of the entire world. Our daily trials should propel us towards deeper union with Christ. Many saints had trying and painful lives, which only strengthened their desire to become holy and devout Christians. Let us learn from their extraordinary lives and commit to becoming saints ourselves.

In particular, we can learn from the life of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, which will be discussed in the upcoming Avila Institute course, “Wisdom of the Saints.” Saint Bernard was a faithful man of God. He had a difficult start to his life after his mother passed away. Following her death, he desired to join the strict Cistercian order in Europe. He later founded a monastery, which is now called Clairvaux, and ultimately founded a total of 163 monasteries throughout Europe.

Although discouraged at times by poor health, he devoted his life to spreading the love of Christ to many, in a world and during an era that told him he couldn't. Saint Bernard is now recognized as a Doctor of the Church and is known as the “Mellifluous Doctor” for his eloquence, as well as being well-known for his theology and Mariology. We can learn from Saint Bernard as he detached himself from this world and gave up everything to serve God.

We should desire to be unified with faithful saints like St. Bernard, who have gone before us and whose lives and faith both strengthen and encourage the entire Church. We can call upon the saints who are living closely with the Lord because, as we know, a great crowd of praying witnesses who continually petition the Father for our edification and salvation surrounds us.

Another early Doctor of the Church, Saint Athanasius, is known for his teachings on the Incarnation through which he earned the title of “Father of Orthodoxy.” We can learn and be encouraged by his story of hardships. As tradition teaches, a certain Bishop Alexander was watching a young group of boys playing when he realized they were “baptizing” one another. Saint Athanasius was one of these young boys, who pretended to be a bishop and baptized the other children. This was apparently the first meeting between Bishop Alexander and Athanasius. The Bishop soon took these boys under his wing, encouraging them toward religious life.

This young boy, Athanasius, became one of the greatest defenders of the Christian faith during a time of confusion and heresy. This time period saw the rise of Arianism, which proposed the idea that Jesus, while fully human, is not fully divine. Saint Athanasius refuted this claim, famously defending the Church teaching on the Incarnation. These actions caused him to be accused of ecclesiastical and political charges. This was the beginning of three exiles from his See in Alexandria. Through all these trials, Saint Athanasius never lost his faith, trust in God, or insistence on theological orthodoxy. As Christians, we can learn from this devoted saint to never lose sight of both the truth and beauty of our faith.

Do you want to become a saint? At the Avila Institute, you can take a course which surveys the Wisdom of the Saints from St. Athanasius to St. Bernard of Clairvaux and learn how to become a saint through the teachings of the great saints. This class provides an overview of the spiritual doctrine of Saints Athanasius, Augustine, Benedict, and Bernard. During this first thousand years of the life of the Church, the saints developed an awareness of quaerere Deum, Lectio Divina, conversatio morum, and habitare secum that informs the whole canon of spiritual literature in the wisdom that follows. Selection of texts has been made on the basis of these themes and their influence on the Schools of Spirituality that follow.

Course objectives are to:

  • Gain a general overview of Christian Spirituality of the First Millennium from the end of the era of the martyrs to the beginning of the Cistercian and Carthusian traditions.
  • Discuss the role of the Scriptures in bringing about conversion in our search for God.
  • Introduce the discipline of the Christian life and its Biblical roots.
  • Introduce the wisdom of discernment and dynamics of our spiritual battle in the Spiritual life.
  • Explore the stages of growth in Christian maturity in terms of both humility and love.

Check out more posts by Kristin Aebli here.

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Art for this post Wisdom of the Saints: Stained glass representing St. Bernard of Clairvaux, unknown artist, ca 1450, PD-US author's life plus 70 years or less, Wikimedia Commons.

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About Kristin Aebli

Kristin Aebli is the Event Coordinator and Marketing Assistant at the Avila Foundation, parent organization of SpiritualDirection.com, the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, and Divine Intimacy Radio. Receiving the position was providential and in God’s perfect timing. Although cradle Catholic, in college she reverted and became confirmed in the Church. Kristin graduated with a degree in Communications from Samford University and she still enjoys ministering to college students through the Samford Catholic Student Association. Kristin is happy to be a part of the Firelight college ministry, is involved with Apostoli Viae and also a Young Professionals Bible study. For fun, Kristin enjoys discussing theology with friends, recording her podcast "Catholic After Dark", dancing, singing, cooking, writing and painting. She hopes to continue growing in her faith through the sacraments and involvement with faithful community.

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