July 11th - St. Benedict, Abbot and Confessor

July 11th - St. Benedict, Abbot and Confessor

WHAT does it take to live like a Christian? The life of Saint Benedict is
one answer to this question, and such an effective one that it made history.
The saint was born in the Italian town of Nursia, about the year 470, and as
a young boy was sent by his family to be educated at Rome. An education in
Rome at that time was "liberal" in more than the academic sense. Student
life was one long dissipation, and Benedict soon realized that, unless he
wanted to be drawn into the debauchery, he would have to leave the city.

Benedict had come to Rome with an elderly family nurse, sent along to look
after his needs. With the old woman, he went eastward from Rome into the
Sabine Mountains, stopping at the small village of Enfide. His stay there
was short because of a miracle he worked for his nurse, the mending of an
earthenware sieve. This was only the first miracle of many that were to
attract people to Benedict, and when the people of Enfide heard of this
particular occurrence they began to visit him in crowds.

Realizing that he was about to become a public exhibit, Benedict decided to
move. This time he went alone, climbing higher into the mountains. Benedict
finally found himself in a desolate region called Subiaco. A few monks lived
in the area, and one of them helped Benedict install himself in a cave high
up in the wall of a cliff, where he remained for the next three years. His
only contact with the world was through the friendly monk, who occasionally
lowered food to him in a basket.

Prayer and penance were Benedict's main activities during this time. It was
a trying period, made harder by terrible temptations to return to the
pleasures of the world. But Benedict mastered himself and at the end of
three years decided that God wished him to continue living in solitude as a
monk. As God arranged it, Benedict was to continue living as a monk but not
by himself.

Monks from the nearby monastery of Vicovaro had heard of this unusual young
recluse and, when their abbot died, they sent a deputation to Benedict,
requesting him to be their new abbot. Benedict agreed; but when he arrived
at the monastery and began some much-needed reforms, trouble began. Most of
the monks enjoyed their loose ways and decided to have no more of the young
abbot's reforms-indeed, to have no more of him at all. One evening, poison
was put into Benedict's cup of wine. When the wine was brought to him and
Benedict made his usual sign of the cross over the cup, it shattered
immediately as if it had been hurled against a rock. With a reproachful
look, Benedict told the monks to find an abbot more to their liking, left
the monastery, and returned to his cave.

But a solitary existence was impossible for him now; his reputation had
grown and crowds of people flocked to see him. Most of these were
serious-minded men who were concerned with leading a Christian life in a
society that had little use for Christianity. Benedict saw that these men
needed guidance and consented to leave his cave to become their leader.
Founding twelve monasteries in the neighborhood of Subiaco, he settled his
followers in them and established himself in the monastery of Saint Clement.
Later, he went to Monte Cassino, southeast of Rome, and there founded the
monastery that was to become the largest and best known in Europe.

When Benedict began to organize his monks at Subiaco and Monte Cassino, he
realized that something different was needed from the general type of
monasticism then prevalent. This was of Eastern origin and had degenerated
into a very haphazard affair. Monks had no common life, they tried to outdo
each other in austerities, and they wandered about from monastery to
monastery as their fancy dictated. In place of all this, Benedict
substituted a life centered around a common task-the chanting of the Opus
Dei, or Divine Office-and dedicated to useful labor, both intellectual and
physical, as well as to private prayer and reasonable forms of penance.

At Monte Cassino Benedict wrote his regulations for monastic life in his
Rule, which was to become one of the most important documents in the history
of Europe. This Rule, which is summarized in the Benedictine motto of ora et
labora (pray and work), was to become the inspiration of most of the
monasticism of the West. European civilization itself was largely preserved
through the work of Christian monks who had Benedict as their spiritual
father, and by others who adapted the wisdom of Benedict's way of life to
their own circumstances in the world.

The saint lived his last years at Monte Cassino, and Saint Gregory the Great
(whose Dialogues are the only source we have for Benedict's life) informs us
that sometime about the year 547, not long after a last visit with his
sister, Saint Scholastica, Benedict died a most happy death, surrounded by
his monks and looking toward heaven.

This Version taken from:

Saint Quotes:
"If you are really a servant of Jesus Christ, let the chain of love hold
you firm in your resolve, not a chain of iron."

"Idleness is the enemy of the soul."

"The first degree of humility is obedience without delay."
-St. Benedict

Bible Quote:
"Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat,
or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not
the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?" (Mat 6:25)

From the Rule of St. Benedict:

"Help those who are in trouble.

"Console the afflicted.

"Prefer nothing to the love of Christ.

"Speak the truth from your heart as from your mouth.

"Attribute the good that you find in yourself to God, and not to yourself.

"Desire eternal life with all the ardor of your soul.

"Listen willingly to the Holy Scriptures.

"Daily confess your past faults to God in your prayers with tears and
groans, and in the future correct them.

"In all things obey the instructions of the Abbot even if, God forbid, he
should go astray in his works, remembering this precept of the Lord: Do what
they say, but not what they do.

"Do not try to pass yourself off as a saint before being one, but become one
first, so that it may be said more truly of you that you are a Saint.

"Honor those who are old.

"Love those who are younger.

"Pray for your enemies in the love of Christ.

"Make peace, before the setting of the sun, with those from whom you have
been separated by discord.

"And never despair of the mercy of God." (Encyclopedia).