Blessed Eugene III
Blessed Eugene III was born near Pisa, Italy, in the twelfth century. He was baptized Peter. St. Antoninus, whose feast day is May 10, called Pope Eugene "a great pope with great sufferings."
Pope Eugene had been Father Peter, a priest in Pisa, when he felt the call to become a Cistercian monk. He went to Clairvaux, France, and joined the monks there. St. Bernard of Clairvaux was the superior. His feast day is August 20. Peter chose "Bernard" for his religious name. He did this because of his great esteem for St. Bernard.
St. Bernard sent his namesake, Bernard, to become the superior of a monastery in Rome. Pope Lucius II died in 1145. That is when a most unusual thing happened. The cardinals elected Abbot Bernard to be pope. The abbot was not at the meeting because he was not a cardinal. He was shocked. St. Bernard of Clairvaux was surprised too. He felt sorry for Bernard. He wrote an open letter to the cardinals: "May God forgive you for what you have done," he said. "You have involved in responsibilities and placed among many people a man who fled them both."
Bernard chose to be called Eugene III. His time as pope brought him many difficulties. The Roman senate threatened to oppose him if he did not let them keep stolen property. A man who had been previously excommunicated went to Pope Eugene and asked forgiveness. Soon after, he fell back into his old ways. He even joined a faction that was directly against the pope. Pope Eugene had to leave Rome a few times because of the dangers surrounding him. When this happened, he would find peace and strength at a monastery. Then he would have the courage to go back and face his difficult task again. He wore his Cistercian habit and lived simply. No matter how hectic his life was, he always had the heart of a monk. One of his fellow monks wrote to St. Bernard of Clairvaux about Pope Eugene: "There is no arrogance or domineering way in him." Pope Eugene died on July 8, 1153.
May we learn to seek first the "Kingdom of God" without counting the cost or wanting people to notice and praise us.