Saint of the Day ~ April 17

SAINT STEPHEN HARDING (c.1050-1134), abbot and co-founder

Today, the Church honors Saint Stephen Harding, a servant of God who truly embraced the monastic way of life, devoting himself to prayer and faithful service to the Church.

Stephen was born at Sherborne in Dorsetshire, England, about the middle of the eleventh century. He received his early education in the monastery in Sherborne and afterwards studied in Paris and Rome.

Upon his return from Rome, he visited the monastery of Molesme in Burgundy, France, under the abbacy of Saint Robert of Molesme. Impressed by its leaders, Stephen joined the community. After a few years, Stephen, together with the leaders and twenty other monks, established a more austere monastery in Citeaux, in the region of Côte-d’Or, France. In the year 1110, Stephen was elected abbot.

Stephen drew up the famous “La Charte de Charité [Charter of Charity]”, which became the basis for Cistercian monasticism. However, very few men were joining the community, and it seemed destined to die out, until the man who was to be known as Saint Bernard of Clairvaux joined the community in 1112 with 30 companions.

The next year, Stephen founded another community at La Ferté in France, and, before his death, the number of monasteries grew to 70 (thirteen of which he personally established), of which 55 were in France itself. By the end of the 12th century, there were 500 monasteries throughout Europe. The Order’s Charter was formally approved by Pope Callistus II in 1119.

In 1133, Stephen, now being old, infirm, and almost blind, resigned the post of abbot; and on March 28, 1134, he died and his remains were interred in the monastery at Cîteaux, the place where his journey of faith had truly begun to mature.

We commemorate his feastday in the Roman calendar on April 17.

(From, and



(The following prayer is from the Roman Breviary from the Commons for Religious ~ abbot)

“Lord, in Your abbot, Saint Stephen, You give an example of the Gospel lived to perfection. Help us to follow him by keeping before us the things of Heaven amid all the changes of this world.

“Grant this 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.”

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