06 September 2010

Blessed Bertrand of Garrigue

6 SEPTEMBER 2010. Today the Dominican Order recalls Blessed Bertrand of Garrigue, one of the original companions of Saint Dominic, who established the Order throughout France.

Blessed Bertrand was born in A.D. 1195 at Garrigue, France. Blessed Bertran's parents were the friends of the Cistercian Sisters of the Convent of Notre Dame of the Woods at Bouchet. This association of his family must have made a  strong impression on the young Bertrand, as we was known to be a pious youth, and from an early age expressed a desire to serve as a member of the clergy and fight the heresy of the Albigenses.

As a young priest, Blessed Bertrand was assigned to a band of missionaries, under the direction of Cistercian fathers, who were charged by the Holy See to bring the Albigenses back to a civilized life and to the Church. I was during this mission work that Blessed Bertrand met Saint Dominic. The two at once became close friends and spiritual brothers.
Cast in the same mold and filled with the same spirit, they labored, prayed, and fasted together-all for the glory of God, the benefit of the Church, the good of religion, and the salvation of souls. Doubtless they effected more by their saintly lives and supplications before the throne of mercy than by their sermons, however eloquent and earnest these were.
The early writers speak of none of Saint Dominic's first disciples more frequently, or in terms of higher praise, than of Blessed Bertrand of Garrigue. They represent him as pious, candid, humble, zealous, much given to prayer, extremely mortified. If we may judge by their representation of him, he was a true Israelite in whom there was no guile, greatly beloved by Saint Dominic, one of his most frequently chosen companions in labor and travel. For this reason, as well as because they had toiled together for years, one can but believe that Bertrand was one of the first to whom Dominic made known his design of establishing an apostolic order, whose primary object should be the salvation of souls through an active ministry, and whose field of operation should embrace the world. In spite of his modesty and retiring manners, Bertrand was the kind of a man who would espouse such a cause with his whole heart, for the grace of God ever impelled him to do all in his power to increase the harvest of heaven.
(The First Disciples of Saint Dominic, The Very Reverand Victor F. O'Daniel, O.P., S.T.M., Litt.D., 1928)

In A.D. 1215 Blessed Bertrand received the habit of the Order from Saint Dominic. It was apparent that in the very early days of the Order, Blessed Bertrand was considered second in rank only to Saint Dominic himself. This may be evidenced by the fact that Saint Dominic left Blessed Bertrand in charge of the community when he went to Rome in the fall of A.D. 1215 to seek papal confirmation of the Order. In A.D. 1216 Saint Dominic named Blessed Bertrand as the third prior of the Order, in the Church of St. Romanus, when St. Dominic traveled to the Vatican to receive final approbation of the order.

Blessed Bertrand was known for his austere life and his obedience. In fact, Bertrand was often known to wail aloud over his own sins, until Saint Dominic forbade him from wailing for his own sins, but instructed him to bemoan the grave sins of the wicked. In obedience, he immediately took on a life of prayer for the wicked of the world.

The last journey of Saint Dominic and Blessed Bertrand was in A.D. 1219 when the pair traveled to Paris where, upon arrival, the two spent the entire night in prayer at the Notre Dame Church, at Roe-Amadour. Tradition tells us that during this journey the Holy Spirit gave Saint Dominic and Blessed Bertrand the gift of tongues and they were thus able to converse with German pilgrims in their native language.

In obedience to Saint Dominic, it appears that Blessed Bertrand did not speak of any of the miracles of Saint Dominic until after his death, and then only to Blessed Jordan of Saxony, the first Master General of the Order after our Father Saint Dominic.

The last apostolic work of Blessed Bertrand was for the Cistercian Sisters of Notre Dame of the Woods at Bouchet, in the Diocese of Valence, where he was giving to these austere sisters a course of sermons on the spiritual life. At only and age of about 35, Blessed Bertrand grew sick and died while with the Cistercian Sisters in A.D. 1230. His body was buried in the conventual cemetery of the Cistercian Nuns near the apse of the abbatial church.

However, shortly after hid death marvellous cures began to come forth through his intercession. As a consequence, the Cistercian Nuns had an altar erected in his honor in their church and placed a statute of Blessed Bertrand upon the altar. Blessed Bertrand's remains, found wholly intact, were afterwards exhumed and placed beneath the altar. However, the remains of Blessed Bertrand were destroyed by fire in A.D. 1561 during the religious wars that followed the Protestant Reformation.

Years later the cemetery of Notre Dame of the Woods became known as "Saint Bertrand's Cemetery," a name that endures to this day. Blessed Bertrand was beatified when his cultus was confirmed on 14 July 1881 by Pope Leo XIII.


O God,
you joined to the holy patriarch Dominic
a companion and wonderful imitator in Blessed Bertrand.
With the help of his prayers
may we follow in life the faith which he preached
and so obtain the promised rewards in heaven.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.


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