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Title of certain sisters of the order of Cîteaux who at the end of the sixteenth and in the seventeenth century, made energetic efforts to restore the primitive observance of their rule. They were the Bernardine Recollects (Bernardas Recoletas) in Spain; the Bernardines of Divine Providence, the Bernardines of the Precious Blood; and the Bernardines of Flines and of Lille, in France and Savoy; and some isolated foundations in Belgium and in Peru. The first reform was due to the Abbesses of Las Huelgas of Burgos, who towards the end of the sixteenth century, had reformed the Abbeys of Gradefes, Perales, and St. Anne of Valladolid, where Jane de Ayala introduced the true spirit of Cîteaux. In 1601 St. Anne of Valladolid became the mother-house of the new reform, and in 1606 the constitutions were approved by Paul V. This reform extended as far as the Indies and the Canary Islands.
In 1622 Louise-Theresa-Blanche de Ballon, daughter of Charles-Emmanuel de Ballon, chamberlain of the Duke of Savoy and later ambassador of this prince in France and Spain, began, under the direction of St. Francis of Sales, her near relative, the reform of the monastery of St. Catherine (Savoy). She afterwards went with five sisters to Rumilly and founded the Congregation of Bernardines of Divine Providence. This reform spread into Savoy and France. The constitutions were printed in 1631. In 1634 Mother de Ponçonnas, who with four other Cistercian sisters of Grenoble had embraced the reform, having gone to Paris to found a new house, had the constitutions reprinted with some changes. Louise de Ballon then had them again printed so as to conform to the first constitutions-an action which caused the separation of the convents of France and Savoy. The convents of France formed what is known as the congregation "of St. Bernard". Mother Baudet de Beauregard who succeeded Mother de Ponconnas in the government of the monastery of Paris, changed the name from Bernardines of Divine Providence to Bernardines of the Precious Blood (1654). Their rules were approved by the Abbot of Prières, Vicar General of the Strict Observance of Cîteaux, and the Prior of St. Germain-des-Près, as Vicar General of the Cardinal de Bourbon, received the vows of the new community on the 27th of August of the same year.
The monasteries of the congregation now number (I) Bernardine Recollects, 13; (II) Bernardines founded by Mother de Ballon, 2; (III) Bernardines of Flines, 2; (IV) Bernardines of Lille, 3; (V) Bernardines isolated in Belgium and Peru, 6. The houses of France have been closed by the Government. The Bernardines of to-day are engaged in teaching and follow a somewhat modified rule.
The Bernardines of Spain rise every day at three o'clock, and on days of great solemnities at two o'clock. For the office they follow the Cistercian Breviary. They fast two days a week from Pentecost tot he 14th of September, four days a week from the 14th of September to Easter Sunday, and every day during Advent, Septugesima time, and Lent. Meat is allowed three times a week except during Advent and the nine weeks before Easter Sunday. Their habit consists of a woolen robe and their bed is conformable to the regulations. They live in community in sickness as well as in health. With the Bernardines of Mother de Ballon this rule is still more mitigated. They rise at five o'clock summer and winter. Silence is kept except during the recreation which follows dinner and supper. They fast two days a week from Easter Sunday to Pentecost, and on Saturday also during Advent. They abstain from meat on the Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays of the whole year.