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St. Bernard of Clairvaux Icon

“O pray for us, that truly despising all earthly objects, we may live for God alone.”
From the Litany of St. Bernard of Clairvaux

Bernard was a man who choose poverty and service to a life of privilege and ease. A man who see’s himself as a teacher instead of a saint. In fact I think he may think it a waste of time to paint a picture of him when I could have been doing something more constructive. A soul devoted to Mary and to her Son, who would work tirelessly, even at the risk of his health to correct, persuade and lead this ancient church out of darkness. Come, live in the light!

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, (1090 – 1153), patron of our parish and founder of abbey Clair Vallee later to be known as Clairvaux. One of the great midieval thinkers, Bernard’s intelligence and personal charisma would be sought by the Holy See to heal schisms within the church. These achievements, his homilies, his speeches his would earn him the title “Doctor Mellifluus” for his honey sweet voiced eloquence.

Bernard’s followers were taught a more personal immediate faith thru the following of Christ and the intercessions of the Blessed Virgin Mother. Mary stands above this Holy assembly as the guiding star, Stella Maris, Mary, Star of the Sea.The star filled sky reveals, thru her guidance, the light and enlightenment of Christ. With his intercessor Mary bestowing her blessing his benediction is complete. Bernard pens his devotion to Mary in prayer, The Memorare.

Christ as a young adult represents us as a relatively young parish. He places a halo delicately above Bernard, almost secretly, knowing that he would never consider himself honored as a saint. Christ’s halo is a simple gold cloth. His robes are a small tribute to my parents taken from the family bible, illustrated by the french artist, James Jacques Tissot.

Bernard stands in the temple of the earth transforming itself into the dome of heaven. His desk is a cut tree. The wood of the cross cut from this tree and with Christ’s resurrection our lives are forever rewritten. He writes for us a path to this life thru Mary’s intercession. He wears the white robes of the Cistercian and the dark cowl from the monks of the rule of St. Benedict, which he sought to reform. From beneath these rough garments the Papal garments are revealed. Two colors, white for Pope Innocent II and yellow for Pope Anacletus II. Colors of the papal seal. This papal schism was healed by Bernard. Pope Pius VIII (1761-1830), during his papacy, would bestow upon Bernard the title “Doctor of the Church”.

At the base of his desk are icons of his patronage. Bees and a hive for his honey sweet way of healing, candles for candle makers and chandlers, and the sword and shield of the Knights Templar.

I would like to thank a few people who helped make this art possible. To my models Ted Marks (Bernard,) Kathy Fleischer (Mary,) and her son Thomas (Jesus,) thanks for my fly by photo sessions and helping me capture a sense of reality in this depiction. These are real people gleaned from the parish that honors Bernard and I like that. To Father Bob Stuempel for letting me paint in the sanctuary, helping me out of a rut and for our son Spencer suggesting a way to get out of it.