Brother Bernard Devine Born 3 September 1910 Entered Roscrea 8 December 1932 Solemn Profession 16 June 1938 Co-founded Nunraw 1946 Died 14 April 1958
Brother Bernard Devine was born in Dublin in 1910. He entered the monastic life at Roscrea, Co. Tipperary, Ireland. His brother, Br. Basil, also became a Cistercian monk, at Mellifont Abbey, Co. Louth. Brother Bernard was among the first founders of Nunraw Abbey in 1946. He was a small wiry man with an impish sense of humour. His class act, an imitation of Charlie Chaplain, was ideally suited to the strict silent observance of the early days at Nunraw. Among other things he worked in the dairy. But the domain where he reigned supreme was the cobbler's shop where he cared for the soles of the brethren in mending their boots and shoes. As senior among the Brothers he led them at their Office, an impressive sight to see one so small among some mighty men. The following profile was written by Abbot Camillus Claffy in his retirement at Roscrea. Archives, Roscrea Abbey: Profile of Brother Bernard (1910 -1958) by Abbot Camillus Claffy (1965) During the closing months, of the year 1932 - that auspicious year of the Eucharistic congress in Ireland and the sixteenth centenary of St. Patrick’s arrival to preach Christianity to the Irish people - the abbot received an application from an aspirant to the community. The signature to the letter, which was brief, revealed that he was a Mr. Patrick Devine. The address given therein was incomplete. Nothing more than “1 Geraldine Terrace” appeared. To make matters worse the cancellation mark on the stamp was blotted and the name of the post-town was indecipherable. The superior, as was his wont, passed on the letter, not to the Fr. Master of the brother novices, but to an assistant superior for acknowledgement. On reading the missive the latter saw the omission referred to. On his taking it for consultation to the Fr. Master, who was a man reputed for sanctity, he was advised to ignore the application. Why? Because there must be a want in the sender of such a letter. No one could help out as to what town or city in the country had a terrace numbered and named ‘1 Geraldine’. After reflection it was decided to try Dublin. Taking care, to stamp on the back of the envelope the address of our abbey in case it may have to be returned, a letter of acknowledgement with the usual query form was sent to the applicant. In due time we had a reply from Mr. Devine. The query form was satisfactorily filled in and apologies for mistakes were expressed. A date was then appointed for him to come for the interview. A few days later,the aspirant arrived at the guesthouse. Small of stature, shy, intelligent and, in walking, showing a slight limp he had the other necessary qualifications for the religious life. In consequence he was accepted. When asked why he by-passed the many and various congregations and Orders of his native city he could only say the words ‘Trappist’ and ‘Cistercian’ always fascinated and appealed to him. Of his own accord he mentioned that a discalced Carmelite priest had been his director and what he feared was that the friar might wish him to enter their Order. However to the credit of the director he made no attempt to draw the young man away from his allegiance to the Cistercians. Early in September 1910, Patrick Devine was born at Milltown, Co. Dublin. The house of his birth. viz. ‘1, Geraldine Terrace’. and tbe whole block of low buildings in the area have been demolished. Recently they were replaced by dwellings far larger than the former cottages. In fact it would be difficult now to find out where the Devine family lived. Patrick was taken on September 4 to the parish church to be baptised. The mother with a large family of both boys and girls was widowed while the children were still young. What was she to do now bereft of her husband, the only breadwinner of the house? The Irish Sisters of Charity, who have a large day-school in Milltown., came to the rescue. Mrs. Devine was given the post of cleaning and looking after the schools. Every evening she and the elder children went there to work when the pupils had been dismissed. In this way she earned sufficient to keep the wolf from the door. She was also assisted by the parish clergy. Accompanied by one of the curates, Patrick Devine arrived at Roscrea three days before the feast. of the Immaculate Conception, 1932. On the festival the Novice Master took him with another aspirant to the novitiate. The latter was the eldest of a large family. After being one day in the house he told the Fr. Master, who had a much higher opinion of him than of Mr. Devine, that he felt lonely for his mother and the house-full of children at home. In a quarter of an hour Mr. Brophy, to give him his name, was on his way out the front avenue on route for his native: city - Dublin. This must have been a rude shock for Mr. Devine but, as we shall see, by God’s grace and his own efforts he not only persevered but became a holy and useful member of the community. After a few weeks the new comer was garbed with the brown habit given to postulants. With it he gladly accepted the name of Bernard, the celebrated and saintly abbot of Clairvaux. During the years that followed Br. Bernard certainly served the Lord ‘fervent in spirit’. When the period of postulancy had expired, the Abbot, on June 6 of the Holy Year 1933, clothed him with the habit of the novice. As a young man he read deeply books treating of prayer and the spiritual life. Dom Lehodey’s works on “The. Ways of Mental Prayer”, “Holy Abandonment” and “The Directory” were in constant use. But he did not confine himself to these. Every treatise on spirituality that came his way interested him. A favourite poem of his was Francis Thomson’s, “The Hound of Heaven”. On June 16. 1935. Bro. Bernard made first or triennial simple vows. On the anniversary day three. years later he was called to solemn and final profession. During these periods he filled several offices. The longest though not the least of these was that of assistant to the novice-master. In other words when the Fr. Master had to be in choir or fulfilling other duties, Br. Bernard had the care and responsibility. At one time or another he discharged the office of cook, assisted in the infirmary and helped in the refectory. On June 18, 1946, the Abbot sent Br. Bernard to the newly established house of Sancta Maria, Nunraw. At the time Br. Bernard believed his health was steadily deteriorating. He told the superior his work in the kitchen was “getting him down” and that for little or no reason he constantly felt irritated and frustrated. He was quite willing to go to Scotland, however, and the superiors believed. that a change of surroundings might help to restore him. By request, Fr. Michael Sherry who was the superior at Nunraw for the first two years tells us the rest of the story. “Br. Bernard Devine”, he writes, “at first under Fr. Andrew assisted in the guest house. Later he was cook for both the infirmary and the guests, still later he was appointed cook for the community with the additional office as assistant master of brother novices. A year prior to his death Br. Bernard underwent an operation for ulcer. Cancer was then discovered. Our physician alone was informed of this. For a time Bro. Bernard felt an improvement. Light work as repairer of boots was undertaken by him. He had always been successful with his hands. Under Fr. Aloysius O’Rahilly, in the Motherhouse at Mount St. Joseph, he had been taught the art of book-binding. This knowledge he passed on to our Fr. Andrew Hart who has turned it to good account”. “Eventually”, continues Fr. Michael, “poor Bro. Bernard found the boot-repairing too much for him. It was observed by the brethren that he grew daily more weary and listless. Apparently the malady from which he. suffered was making more serious inroads on his health. The physician sent him to the surgeon. The latter for his own reasons refused to operate. For some months the patient lingered on. Everything that medical skill could do had failed”. On April 14, 1958, Br. Bernard was called by God to receive the reward of the good and faithful servant. He had not then reached his forty sixth birthday. The number of years he had passed in the cloister amounted to twenty six. He was in the twenty third as a professed religious. A few years after he had come to Roscrea he unexpectedly heard that his younger brother had entered the Cistercians at Mount Melleray. At a later date. he (Bro. Basil) was chosen for the foundation at Mellifont where he now (1965) resides. “Come ye blessed of My Father possess the kingdom prepared for you” (St. Matt. xxv 34)