Today is the feast of St. Bernard of Clairvaux. He was an 11th century Cistercian monk who reformed his order, advised popes and kings and promoted the study of Scripture among his brother monks.
But some people attribute the name of the dog with the saint of the day. Not quite!
At a little more than 8,000 feet above sea level sits the Great St. Bernard Pass, a 49-mile route in the Western Alps. The pass is only snow free for a couple of months during the summer and has been a treacherous route for many travelers throughout history. In order to help struggling trekkers, an Augustine monk named St. Bernard de Menthon founded a hospice and monastery around the year 1050.
Sometime between 1660 and 1670, the monks at Great St. Bernard Hospice acquired their first St. Bernards?descendants of the mastiff style Asiatic dogs brought over by the Romans?to serve as their watchdogs and companions. (The earliest depiction of the breed was in two paintings done by well-known Italian artist Salvatore Rosa in 1695.) Compared to St. Bernards today, these dogs were smaller in size, had shorter reddish brown and white fur and a longer tail.
At the turn of the century, servants called marroniers were assigned to accompany travelers between the hospice and Bourg-Saint-Pierre, a municipality on the Swiss side. By 1750, marroniers were routinely accompanied by the dogs, whose broad chests helped to clear paths for travelers. The marroniers soon discovered the dogs' tremendous sense of smell and ability to discover people buried deep in the snow, and sent them out in packs of two or three alone to seek lost or injured travelers.
St. Bernard's also have been characterized as liquor-carrying mini bars with fur (which resembles maybe at least one bartender on the Square).
And some of you may be familiar with the series of Beethoven movies. If you are, keep it to yourself. Unless you are a child. And then get off the internet and go play in the yard!
Every day, it is said, Bernard would ask "Why am I here?" and remind himself he is here to love and serve God.
So today's lesson: Ask God for a purpose, serve the Lord, read scripture, and someday a dangerous mountain pass and a dog will be named for some other guy who is not you.