Monday, July 11, 2005
St. Benedict, Founder of Western Monasticism

Greater Double (1954 Calendar): March 21
Memorial (1969 Calendar): July 11

St. Benedict is probably one of the Catholic Church's most recognized saints. Dom Gueranger writes at the beginning of his entry for March 21st the following:
Forty days after the white dove of Cassino had mounted to heaven, Benedict, her glorious brother, ascended by a bright path to the blissful abode, where they were to be united for ever. Both of them reached the heavenly country during that portion of the year which corresponds with the holy season of Lent. It frequently happens, however, that St. Scholastica’s feast is kept before Lent has begun; whereas St. Benedict’s day, the twenty-first of March, always comes during the season of penance. God, who is the sovereign Master of time, willed that the faithful, whilst practising their exercises of penance, should always have before their eyes a saint whose example and intercession would inspire them with courage. With what profound veneration ought we to celebrate the festival of this wonderful saint, who, as St. Gregory says, was filled with the spirit of all the just! If we consider his virtues, we find nothing superior in the annals of perfection presented to our admiration by the Church.
Saint Benedict of Norsia (c. 480 - c. 547) is called the Founder of Western Monasticism. He was born c. 480 in Norsia, Italy as part of the Roman nobility and as the twin sister, Saint Scholastica. He studied in Rome but was dismayed by the lack of discipline there. St. Benedict retreated to the mountains near Subiaco and lived as a hermit in a cave for three years. Legend even says that during this time of meditation and prayer, he was fed by a raven.

Because of his virtues, he was requested to lead an abbey of monks. So he founded the monastery at Monte Cassino. It was there that he wrote the Rule of St. Benedict, which Benedictine Monks still follow today. However, his enforced discipline and holiness was not liked by everyone.

Several monks tried to poison him. Yet as St. Benedict said the prayer of blessing and made the sign of the Cross over his meal before he ate and drank, the poison was rendered harmless. St. Benedict returned to his cave, but he attracted many followers. He would found 12 monasteries.

St. Benedict had the ability to read consciences, prophesy, and forestall attacks from the devil. He destroyed many pagan statues and altars and drove demons from groves sacred to pagans. Many people wear the St. Benedict's Crucifix today, which is a powerful Sacramental.  St. Benedict was a shining example of holiness and brought back from the dead several of those who had died.

The Life of St. Benedict written by Pope St. Gregory the Great is an absolute must-read.

St. Benedict died on March 21, 547, due to a fever while in prayer at Monte Cassino, Italy. His remains are beneath the High Altar in the same tomb as his twin sister, St. Scholastica. At one point over 40,000 monasteries followed the Benedictine Rule. His Rule has been summed into three words: Ora et labora (Pray and work).

Taken from the New Liturgical Movement Website on the timing of the Feast of St. Benedict:
St Benedict died on March 21 in the year 543 or 547, and this was the date on which his principal feast was traditionally kept, and is still kept by Benedictines; it is sometimes referred to on the liturgical calendars of Benedictine liturgical books as the “Transitus - Passing”

There was also a second feast to honor the translation of his relics, which was kept on July 11. The location to which the relics were translated is still a matter of dispute, with the Abbey of Monte Cassino in Italy, founded by the Saint himself, and the French Abbey of Fleury, also known as Saint-Benoît-sur-Loire, both claiming to possess them. This second feast is found in many medieval missals and breviaries, even in places not served by monastic communities. (It was not, however, observed by either the Cistercians or Carthusians.). 

The second feast was in a certain sense the more solemn in the traditional use of the Benedictines; March 21 always falls in Lent, and the celebration of octaves in Lent was prohibited, but most monastic missals have the July 11 feast with an octave. In the post-Conciliar reform of the Calendar, many Saints, including St Benedict, were moved out of Lent; in his case, to the day of this second feast in the Benedictine Calendar.

Fulgens Radiatur:
Like a star in the darkness of night, Benedict of Nursia brilliantly shines, a glory not only to Italy but of the whole Church. Whoever considers his celebrated life and studies in the light of the truth of history, the gloomy and stormy times in which he lived, will without doubt realize the truth of the divine promise which Christ made to the Apostles and to the society He founded "I am with you all days even to the consummation of the world."[1] At no time in history does this promise lose its force; it is verified in the course of all ages flowing, as they do, under the guidance of divine Providence. But when enemies assail the Christian name more fiercely, when the fateful barque of Peter is tossed about more violently and when everything seems to be tottering with no hope of human support, it is then that Christ is present, bondsman, comforter, source of supernatural power, and raises up fresh champions to protect Catholicism, to restore it to its former vigor, and give it even greater increase under the inspiration and help of heavenly grace.

Encyclical of His Holiness Pope Pius XII On St. Benedict March 21, 1947

May the intercession of blessed Benedict the Abbot commend us unto Thee, we beseech Thee, O Lord: so that what we cannot acquire by any merits of ours, we may obtain by his patronage. Through our Lord.

Prayer Source: 1962 Roman Catholic Daily Missal

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