August 21: Blessed Bernard Ptolemy OSB, Abbot, memorial

The Magnificat antiphon for I Vespers reflects the readings for the first Nocturn of Matins tomorrow, from chapter 1 of the Book of Wisdom.  Today’s Gospel is St Luke 18: 9-14, the story of the Pharisee and the publican at prayer.

It is never to late to be recognised as a saint, with Pope Benedict XVI formally canonising Bernardo Tolomei (1272-1348), abbot and founder of the Congregation of the Blessed Virgin of Monte Oliveto, in 2009. He was beatified by Urban VIII in 1634.

Pope Benedict XVI described him as an "authentic martyr of charity."

According to Zenit, the saint died while taking care of the monks who had fallen ill to the great plague of 1348: "The example of this saint is for us an invitation to translate our faith into a life dedicated to God in prayer and in total surrender to service to one's neighbor, with the instinct of charity ready to take on even the supreme sacrifice," the Holy Father said.

The Wiki has some details of the details of his life (largely from the Catholic Encylopedia):

"Giovanni Tolomei was born at Siena in Tuscany. He took the name of "Bernard" (in its Italian form Bernardo) out of admiration for the saintly Abbot of Clairvaux. He was educated by his uncle, Christopher Tolomeo, a Dominican, and desired to enter the religious life, but his father's opposition prevented him from doing so, and he continued his studies in secular surroundings.

After a course in philosophy and mathematics he devoted himself to the study of civil and canon law, and of theology. For a time Bernardo served in the armies of Rudolph I of Germany. After his return to Siena he was appointed by his fellow citizens to the highest positions in the town government. While thus occupied he was struck with blindness. Having recovered his sight, this being attributed to the intervention of the Blessed Virgin Mary, he retired (1313) to a solitary spot about ten miles from Siena, where he led a life of the greatest austerity.

The fame of his virtues soon attracted many visitors, and Bernardo was accused of heresy. He went to Avignon and cleared himself of this charge before Pope John XXII without difficulty. Upon his return he founded the congregation of the Blessed Virgin of Monte Oliveto (the Olivetans), giving it the Rule of St. Benedict. The purpose of the new religious institute was a special devotion to the Blessed Virgin.

Guido, Bishop of Arezzo, within whose diocese the congregation was formed, confirmed its constitution in (1319), and many favours were granted by Popes John XXII, Clement VI (1344), and Gregory XI. Upon the appearance of the plague in the district of Arezzo, Bernardo and his monks devoted themselves to the care of the sick. As a result of this charitable act, Bernardo and a number of his Olivetian confreres themselves succumbed to the ravages of the plague.

After having ruled the religious body he had founded for 27 years Bernardo died, at the age of 76."

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