All he really wanted to do was pray
A new and very different monastery had opened several miles from his home. It focused on absolute simplicity and prayer. This was the place he was looking for. His enthusiasm was so great that when he entered the monastery in his early twenties, four of his five brothers came with him as well as more than two dozen of his friends. Now he could devote himself totally to prayer.
However, it was clear that his vocation to prayer was combined with extraordinary charisms of leadership. Three years later, he was sent to establish a new monastery in a place known as the Valley of Bitterness (which he renamed Clear Valley). The reputation of the monastery spread quickly and many flocked to join, even his widowed father. He had to open still more monasteries.
His reputation for holiness, wisdom and leadership grew so much that the wider Church many times would turn to him to help solve difficult challenges. He was summoned to a meeting of the nation’s bishops to help sort out serious problems that had arisen in some dioceses. He was called to combat heresies and rally political support in defense of the Church and of Christian pilgrims in the Holy Land. He was even asked to decide who was the rightful Pope, after two groups of Cardinals elected two different men on the same day. He also wrote important spiritual books.
Bernard of Clairvaux, pioneer of the Cistercian order, died in his 63rd year in 1153. His reputation did not diminish in death. He was canonized twenty years later. Two centuries later, Dante depicted him as his guide through the highest heavens in the Divina Commedia. In the 19th century he was declared a doctor of the Church. Cistercian monasteries around the world today look to him as one of the founders.