St. Stephen Harding
[NEW] January 14
He was the third Abbot of Cïteaux and was born at Sherborne in Dorsetshire, England, circa the middle of the eleventh century and died March 28, 1134. He was edducated at the monastery of Sherborne and afterwards studied in Paris and Rome. While returning Rome he visited the monastery of Molesme where he was taken by the holiness of St. Robert, the abbot, and joined that community where he practiced great austerities, becoming one of St. Robert's chief supporters and was one of the band of twenty-one monks who, by authority of Hugh, Archbishop of Lyons, retired to Cïteaux to institute a reform in the new foundation there. When St. Robert was recalled to Molesme in 1099, Stephen became prior of Cïteaux under Alberic, the new abbot. On Alberic's death (1110) Stephen was elected abbot. The number of monks was now very reduced, as no new members had come to fill the places of those who had died. Stephen, however, insisted on retaining the strict observance originally instituted and, having offended the Duke of Burgundy, Cïteaux's great patron, by forbidding him or his family to enter the cloister, was even forced to beg alms from door to door. St. Bernard and thirty companions then joined the community, which was the beginning of extraordinary prosperity. The next year Stephen founded his first colony at La Ferté, and before is death he had established thirteen monasteries in all. His powers as an organizer were exceptional: he instituted the system of general chapters and regular visitations and, to ensure uniformity in all his foundations, drew up the famous "Charter of Charity" or collection of statues for the government of all monasteries united to Cïteaux, which was approved by Pope Callistus II in 1119. In 1133 Stephen, now infirm, and almost blind, resigned.Our Saint is buried in the tomb of Alberic, his predecessor, in the cloister of Cîteaux. In the Roman calendar his Feast is April 17, but the Cistercians keep it on July 15, with an octave, regarding him as the true founder of the order. Two of his sermons are preserved and also two letters (Nos. 45 and 49) in the "Epp. S. Bernardi".
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