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Saint of the Day: St. Stephen Harding

Co-Founder of the Cistercian Order


Doncecz - CC BY-SA 3.0

Cistercian Abbot (ca. 1050-1134)

His life

+ Stephen was born in Sherborne, Dorset, England. He was educated and raised by the monks of Sherborne Abbey. He traveled throughout Scotland and eventually made his way to Paris and Rome.

+ He became a monk in the Benedictine Abbey of Molemse in Burgundy, France, which was then little more than a collection of huts under the rule of the abbot Saint Robert of Molesme.

+ The monastic community began grow in numbers and in wealth and Robert was disillusioned by what he saw as a weakening of monastic observance. He left the monastery, accompanied by Stephen and twenty-two other monks, including Saint Alberic.

+ Together, these monks established a new monastery at Citeaux, a marshy area near Dijon, France. Their goal was to live a monastic life based on a more strict interpretation of the Rule of St. Benedict.

+ Stephen became third abbot of Citeaux and is honored with Robert and Alberic as one of the founders of the Cistercian Order.

+ It was in 1112, during Stephen’s rule as abbot, that Saint Bernard of Clairvaux entered the monastery of Citeaux. Saint Bernard would eventually insure the far-reaching influence of the Cistercian tradition begun by the three founding abbots.

+ Stephen served as abbot of Citeaux for twenty-five years. During his rule, a dozen Cistercian monasteries were established and, in 1119, he received approval for the order’s Charter of Charity, which established unifying principles that the Cistercians still use today.

+ In 1125, he established the first community of Cistercian nuns in Tart.

+ Saint Stephen Harding died on March 29, 1134. Today, monastic communities throughout the world honor Saint Stephen in a joint feast with Saint Robert and Saint Alberic on January 26.

For prayer and reflection

The just shall flourish like the palm tree, / shall grow like a cedar of Lebanon.

Planted in the house of the Lord, / they shall flourish in the courts of our God.”—Psalm 92:13-14


The Cistercian Monks of Our Lady of Dallas Monastery:

The Cistercian Nuns of Our Lady of the Valley Monastery:


God of power and might,

you have given us in your saints

a living witness to monastic life.

Schooled in their principles and observances,

may we, too, strive to show that same faith and love in our lives.

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. Amen.

(from The Cistercian Sanctoral, alternate opening prayer for the Solemnity of Saints Robert, Alberic, and Stephen)

Saint profiles prepared by Brother Silas Henderson, S.D.S.

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