Peter dei Paganelli di Montemagno was born near Pisa in Italy. When Peter grew up, he became a priest and worked in Pisa for a few years. Later, he felt the need to get closer to God and joined the Cistercian monks in Clairvaux in France.
St. Bernard was the superior at the monastery of Clairvaux. His feast day is August 20. Peter respected Bernard and the two soon became good friends. Peter too chose “Bernard” for his religious name and tried to live like the saint.
St. Bernard sent his namesake, Bernard, to become the superior of a monastery in Rome called Tre Fontaine. Then in 1145, Pope Lucius II died and a most unusual thing happened. When the cardinals met at the funeral of the pope, they decided to elect the new pope as quickly as possible. And together they elected Abbot Bernard to be pope. The abbot, who was not a cardinal, did not attend the meeting.
He was shocked when he was told. 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.”
Accepting God’s will, Bernard chose to be called Pope 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 was earlier sent away from the country went to Pope Eugene and asked forgiveness. But he soon fell back into his old ways. He even joined a group that was directly against the pope. Pope Eugene had to leave Rome a few times because of the dangers surrounding him. One of his fellow monks wrote to St. Bernard of Clairvaux about Pope Eugene: “There is no arrogance or domineering way in him.” St. Antoninus, called Pope Eugene “a great pope with great sufferings.” Pope Eugene died on July 8, 1153 at Tivoli in Italy.
Reflection: As Christians, we should be ready to suffer for it is our vocation to suffer not for suffering sake but for the Lord. Our Divine Master had already told us that before the world had hated us it was He who was hated by the world first. Therefore, there is nothing to be worried about when persecutions and hardships comes for by these we glorify God through our perseverance and fortitude.
Prayer: Almighty ever-living God, who chose blessed Eugene III to preside over your whole people and benefit them by word and example, keep safe, we pray, by his intercession, the shepherds of your Church along with the flocks entrusted to their care, and direct them in the way of eternal salvation. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.