Letter xxxii (A. D. 1132) to Thurstan, Archbishop of York
To Thurstan, Archbishop of York

Bernard praises his charity and beneficence towards the Religious.

To the very dear father and Reverend Lord Thurstan, by the Grace of God Archbishop of York, Bernard, Abbot of Clairvaux, wishes the fullest health.

The general good report of men, as I have experienced, has said nothing in your favour which the splendour of your good works does not justify. Your actions, in fact, show that your high reputation, which fame had previously spread everywhere, was neither false nor ill-founded, but manifest and certain. Especially of late how brilliantly has your zeal for righteousness and your sacerdotal energy shone forth in the defence of the poor Religious who had no other helper. [51] Once, indeed, the whole assembly of the saints used to venerate your works of mercy and alms deeds; but in doing so it narrated always what is common to you with very many, since whosoever possesses the goods of this world is bound to share them with the poor. But this is your episcopal task, this the noble proof of your paternal affection, this your truly divine fervour, the zeal which no doubt has inspired and aroused in you who makes His angels spirits and His ministers a flaming fire. This, I say, belongs entirely to you. It is the ornament of your dignity, the badge of your office, the adornment of your crown. It is one thing to fill the belly of the hungry, and quite another thing to have a zeal for holy poverty. The one serves nature, the other grace. Thou shalt visit thy kind, He says, and thou shalt not sin (Job v.24, Vulg.). Therefore he who nourishes the flesh of another sins not in so doing, but he who honours the sanctity of another does good to his own soul; therefore he says again, Keep your alms in your own hand until you shall find a righteous man to whom to give it. For what advantage? Because He who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man's reward (S. Matt. x.41). Let us, then, discharge the debt that nature requires of us, that we may avoid sin; but let us be co-workers with grace, that we may merit to become sharers of it. It is this that I so admire in you, as I acknowledge that it was given to you from above. O, Father, truly reverend and to be regarded with the sincerest affection; the praise for what you have laid out of your temporal means to the relief of our necessities, will be blended with the praises of God for ever.


[51] What Thurstan did for the protection of these monks, who had taken refuge with him in the desire to embrace a more austere life, may be seen in a Letter from him which we have taken from the Monasticon Anglicanum and placed after those of S Bernard.

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