Saint Benedict

Saint Benedict
Born: c480 Norcia Italy
Died: c547 Monte Cassino Italy
Feast Day: July 11th (was March 21st)
Patron Saint: Catholic Monks, Cavers, Europe
Shrine: Monte Cassino Abbey
Also Known As: Saint Benedict of Norcia, Saint Benedict of Nursia

Saint Benedict was born in c480 in Norcia, Italy to an educated family who sent him to Roman schools. Shocked by the permissive society in Rome, Benedict retired to Enfide in the Simbruinian hills.  Here Benedict worked his first miracle, restoring to perfect condition an earthenware wheat sifter which his manservant had accidentally broken. The notoriety which this miracle brought drove Benedict to withdraw from social life to a cave in the rocks beside the lake above Subiaco 40 miles east of Rome near Abruzzi. He lived in the cave for 3 years, looked after by Romanus, a monk from one of the nearby monasteries.

As his sanctity became known in the area, Benedict was persuaded to become abbot of one of the local monasteries.  His strict rules were resisted however, and an attempt was made to poison him.  It is said that a raven flew away with the poisoned bread before Benedict could eat it.  He returned to the cave, but his disciples flocked to him.  This encouraged him to begin 12 monasteries each with 12 monks, with himself in overall control.  Soon noblemen were offering their sons as monks under Benedict’s care.  Benedict however left the area sometime later disturbed by a neighbouring priest, Florentius, who was envious of Benedict’s popularity, however, the 12 monasteries continued.

A few of Benedict’s followers travelled South after Benedict when he settled on the top of a hill overlooking Cassino. Many local pagans were converted due to Benedict’s preaching.  His sister Scholastica, came to live nearby as head of a nunnery.  Here he founded the Benedictine monastery which became the most famous Abbey in Europe and wrote "The Rule." This simple set of guidelines for how the life of a monk should be lived has become one of the most influential works in all Western Christendom. This led him to become known as the father of Western monasticism; the rule that he established became the standard for monastic life in Europe. 

He performed many miracles at the monastery, he brought back from death a youngster, miraculously supplied the monastery with flour and oil in its time of need and displayed the gift of prophecy. In autumn of 542 AD, while the Goth King Totila was passing through Cassino on the way to Naples to attack it, he decided to test Saint Benedict because he had already heard of his gifts and charisms. Therefore, Totila sent his squire dressed as a king to greet the monk; but Saint Benedict soon unmasked him. When he finally met Totila, he warned him with a dire prediction: “You have hurt many and you continue to do it, now stop behaving badly! You will enter Rome, you will cross the vast sea, you will reign for nine years; however, in the tenth year, you will die.” And that is exactly what happened.

Due to the changing times, Benedict served as a link between the monasticism of the East and the new age that was starting after the demise of the Roman Empire.  He died c547 and his sister died shortly before.

Benedict was a wise ruler, authoritative but caring, firm but loving. Although beginning his monastic life as a hermit, he saw the difficulties and spiritual dangers of the solitude.

In 1964, in view of the work of the monks following the Benedictine rule in the evangelisation and civilisation of many European Countries in the Middle Ages, Pope Paul VI proclaimed Benedict the Patron Saint of Europe.

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