St. Stephen Harding
Stephen was a young Englishman who lived in the twelfth century. He was a good student who liked to learn. Stephen was especially interested in literature. He was serious about life and prayed daily. Once Stephen and his friend set out on foot as pilgrims for Rome. When they returned, Stephen joined a very poor and holy group of monks. These men prayed, fasted and worked hard. That was their way of showing their love for God. Stephen noticed how happy they were. Their abbot was another saint, St. Robert.
For a while, Stephen served God joyfully with them. But little by little the monks did not want to live such a strict life anymore. So St. Robert and St. Stephen and twenty of the monks started a new monastery. They built it themselves in the wilderness in France called Citeaux. They lived a life of work and great poverty. They wanted to imitate the poverty of Jesus. They kept strict silence.
When St. Stephen became the abbot, he had many troubles. The monks had just a little food. Then over half of the monks became sick and died. It looked as though the community would come to an end. They needed new, young members to continue their life. Stephen prayed with faith. And his prayer was rewarded. God sent to these monks called Cistercians thirty young men who wanted to join them. They arrived at the monastery gate all together. Their leader was to become a great saint, too. His name is St. Bernard. We celebrate his feast day on August 20. This was a marvelous day for St. Stephen and the monks.
St. Stephen spent the last few years of his life writing a book of rules for the monks. He also trained St. Bernard to take his place.
When he lay dying, St. Stephen heard the monks around him whispering. They were saying that Stephen did not have to be afraid to die. He had worked so hard and loved God so much. But St. Stephen said that he was afraid he had not been good enough. And he really meant it. That shows us how humble this great saint was. He died in 1134.
We might consider finding some "quiet time" each day to let God work in our minds and hearts.