Procter/Dominican Saints/Bl. Bertrand of Garrigua
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John Procter, O.P.
Blessed Bertrand of Garrigua, Confessor
BLESSED BERTRAND was a native of Garrigua, a little place in the South of France, apparently a fief or farm belonging to the Cistercian Abbey of Our Lady at Bosquet. He was brought up by the nuns of that Abbey, and received an education which fitted him for Holy Orders. From his youth he had had sad and personal experience of the terrible condition to which the ravages of the Albigensian heretics had reduced the fair provinces of Southern France. In the year 1200, Raymond VI., Count of Toulouse, had overrun the country at the head of an army of these miscreants, directing his attacks chiefly on the monasteries and churches. Blessed Bertrand's kind benefactresses, the good nuns of Bosquet, had been obliged to seek refuge in flight; and their abbey might have been razed to the ground, had not one of their vassals had the happy inspiration to overturn some beehives which stood on the walls, and the exasperated bees drove the enemy back in confusion.
It was quite natural, therefore, that as soon as he was ordained priest, Blessed Bertrand should volunteer to join the mission then being conducted by the Cistercian monks to reclaim the people from the errors of the Albigenses, and thus become acquainted with our Holy Father, Saint Dominic, who was then taking part in the same holy enterprise. From the first day that they met, a common sympathy in divine things knit their hearts together. Thus the ancient chroniclers of the Order speak of Blessed Bertrand as "the beloved companion of Dominic," "the dearest associate in all his labours, the sharer in his devotions," "the imitator of his sanctity," and "the inseparable companion of his journeys." "By his watchings, his fasts, and his other penances he succeeded," says Bernard Guidonis, "in so perfectly imprinting on his own person the likeness of his beloved Father, that one might have said, seeing him pass by, 'Truly the disciple is like the master; there goes the very portrait of Saint Dominic.'"
After making his profession at Prouille on the Feast of the Assumption, A.D. 1217, in company with the other fifteen first companions of the holy Patriarch, Blessed Bertrand was one of those chosen to lay the foundations of the Order in Paris; and two years later we find him again visiting that city, on this latter occasion as the companion of Saint Dominic. The details of this journey Blessed Jordan learnt from Blessed Bertrand's own lips. The two holy travellers, going from Toulouse by way of Rocamadour, spent the night devoutly in that celebrated sanctuary of Our Lady. The next day, as they travelled along, they overtook some German pilgrims and were miraculously enabled to understand their language. In an earlier journey made by Blessed Bertrand in the Saint's company, they remained untouched by torrents of rain which fell around them.
It is related of Blessed Bertrand, that he constantly wept for his sins, for which he was wont to do excessive penance. Saint Dominic, however, reproved him, and enjoined him rather to weep and pray for the sins of others. And this charge had such an effect on the soul of Blessed Bertrand, that from that time, even if he wished, he was not able to weep for his own sins; but, when he mourned for those of others, his tears would flow in great abundance. He was accustomed every day to say Mass for sinners; and being asked by one Brother Benedict, a prudent man, why he so rarely celebrated Mass for the dead and so frequently for sinners, he replied: "We are certain of the salvation of the faithful departed, whereas we remain tossed about in many perils." "Then," said Brother Benedict, "if there were two beggars, the one with all his limbs sound, and the other quite disabled, which would you compassionate the most?" And he replied: "The one certainly who can do least for himself." "If so," said Brother Benedict, "such certainly are the dead, who have neither mouth to confess nor hands to work, but who ask our help; whereas living sinners have mouths and hands, and with them can take care of themselves." Blessed Bertrand, however, remained unconvinced. But the following night there appeared to him a terrible vision of a departed soul, who with a bundle of wood pressed and weighed upon him after a strange fashion; and, waking him up more than ten times that same night, marvellously vexed and troubled him. Therefore, the following morning he called Brother Benedict to him and told him all that had befallen him in the night; and then religiously and with many tears going to the altar, he offered the Holy Sacrifice for the departed, and from that time very frequently did the same.
After filling the office of Prior of Saint Romain's at Toulouse, Blessed Bertrand was appointed the first Provincial of Provence, which then included the whole of Southern France. He devoted himself earnestly to the work of preaching up to the time of his death, which took place at the Abbey of Bosquet, about A.D. 1230. Twenty-three years afterwards, his body was found whole and incorrupt. The precious remains were sacrilegiously burnt by the Huguenots in the sixteenth century, but the devotion to him has subsisted even to our own day. He was beatified by Pope Leo XIII.
O God, who didst give to the Blessed Patriarch, Saint Dominic, Blessed Bertrand as an excellent companion and imitator, grant us, through his pious intercession, so to walk in his footsteps as to obtain his rewards. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.