Neither are the souls of the pious dead separated from the Church which even now is the kingdom of Christ. Otherwise there would be no remembrance of them at the altar of God in the communication of the Body of Christ. -- Saint Augustine of Hippo from “The City of God

Monday, July 10, 2006

Saint Benedict of Nursia



Saint Benedict has become well renowned as the father of the Monastic Rule, even though the spirit of monasticism began in the middle east many years before. Still once the monastic spirit reached Europe most Religious Orders in their infant years began their Charism under the guidance of the Benedictine Rule.

Not much is known about Benedicts early years but many sources site Nursia as the birth place of this great man of the Church. He was born approximately 480 and many believe that his parents may have been financially secure in that Benedict was able to read and would later attend school, which was unusual for the peasantry of that time. Legend also has it that Benedict was the brother to his equally holy twin sister, Scholastica.

When he was sent to Rome for his education the young Benedict was quickly dismayed to see that his fellow men and women were behaving in a promiscuous fashion. Even from a young age Benedict had an ascetic spirit and was loathe to join in on the ribald and sinful lifestyle of his fellow students.

Finally the young Benedict could stand no more of this promiscuous lifestyle and so left for a place of silent repose where he would be able to study with no worldly distractions. Along with an elderly servant Benedict live for a while in the Sabine Mountains, it was here that one of Benedict first miracles was observed when his servant accidentally broke a bowl and Benedict by merely touching it the bowl was restored as if it had not been broken at all. This miracle also brought Benedict much unwanted attention once news of this incident was heard by others.

Benedict once more decided to travel in order to have complete solitude this time unaccompanied by any servants. He traveled to a place called Subiaco it was here that he met up with a monk called Romanus and it was through conversations with this monk that Benedict revealed his dearest wish, to live his entire life as a hermit, dedicating his entire life to the contemplation of God.

Romanus after listening to Benedict decided to help him live his chosen lifestyle and so both men found a remote cave where Benedict would spend the next 3 to 4 years. The only nourishment that Benedict was able to eat was given to him by Romanus who took the left over's from the Monastic community he lived in. These left over's mainly consisted of bread and water, a very severe form of diet.

According to the writings of Pope Gregory a Priest who lived not far from Benedict was preparing himself a celebratory dinner on Easter Sunday when he suddenly heard this voice say to him, "Thou art preparing thyself a savoury dish while my servant Benedict is afflicted with hunger." When the priest heard these words he set out to find Benedict once he had both Benedict and the priest spoke for many hours about God and their faith. The priest was surprised by the wild appearance that Benedict presented as he was clothed in animals skins for warmth. From this priestly contact others came to know about the wild man living in the caves and many visited Benedict for spiritual guidance.

From the writings of Pope Gregory we read how Benedict this holy man of God also had to overcome temptations and the attacks forced upon him by the devil as Gregory described in his works on Benedict, . "On a certain day when he was alone the tempter presented himself. A small dark bird, commonly called a blackbird, began to fly around his face and came so near him that, if he had wished, he could have seized it with his hand. But on his making the sign of the cross, the bird flew away. Then followed a violent temptation of the flesh, such as he had never before experienced. The evil spirit brought before his imagination a woman whom he had formerly seen, and inflamed his heart with such vehement desire at the memory of her that he had very great difficulty in repressing it. He was almost overcome and thought of leaving his solitude. Suddenly, however, with the help of divine grace, he found the strength he needed." After much struggling the devil left Benedict in peace as he could win no battle with this man who was guided by God Himself.

It wasn't long before Benedict was approached by a religious community to become their Superior after the death of their Abbot. Benedict when first approached refused to take this position as he preferred his life of holy solitude, but the small community of monks prevailed and so Benedict tried to lead the monks into following God's Divine Will as he had throughout the years. Unfortunately after a while many of the monks began to rebel at this strictness of Benedicts Rule and some tried to poison Benedict in order to rid themselves of this holy man. This scheme did not work as before drinking the poisoned wine Benedict blessed it and upon making the blessing the poisoned wine glass smashed. Benedict was disappointed and chastised the small group of monks before taking his leave of them, and returning to his hermitage in Subiaco.

Benedict though was not to be alone for long as many more men who also longed for a more solitary way of serving God were drawn to this holy man and longed to copy his lifestyle. Benedict by now had a growing longing to begin a monastic life for those who wished to follow God with all their hearts. Through this came about the monastic life which would be followed by so many early Religious Orders. Benedict began making the Rules for his community of men and in order that those who joined would be faithful to the Charims of the Monastic movement Benedict kept overall charge and control of those who joined him in living the monastic principle.

Through a life balanced by mortifications and intense prayer, men were able to contemplate God from the purity of their hearts. Through this one man's vision of living and starting a monastic life we have the Traditions within the Church based on the thoughts and teachings of this holy man of God, who is Benedict.

Throughout his life, Benedict was also the recipient of many miracles and had the ability to read souls and thereby direct people to let go of the sins which were holding them back from serving God with all their hearts.

Though Benedict lived a life of uncompromising principles and stayed true to his own Rule, he truly brought many closer to God because of the example he gave of his own beatific vision of God.

Through his many mortifications this weakened Benedict's health and he died of fever.

Benedict of Nursia died in the year 547.

Peace of Christ to ALL

Copyright © 2006 Marie Smith. All rights reserved.


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