Acta Sanctorum: St. Benedict (July 11)
July 11, 2023
Fr. John Colacino C.PP.S.

Life. (480-547?)

This great monk, whose religious rule is still followed by monks and nuns throughout the world, was born into a noble Roman family in Nursia (now Norcia, near Spoleto, Italy). The only adequate account of his life (but a dependable one) is to be found In Book II of the Dialogues, a work written by Pope St. Gregory the Great some fifty years after Benedict of Nursia’s death.

Benedict’s parents sent him to Rome for his higher education. There the teenager came into contact with Mideast leaders of the monastic movement. But Rome itself was at that time in the throes of political and moral disorder. Benedict, fearing to become tainted by its corruption, eventually took flight to the mountains some 30 miles east from Rome. Having sorted out his options during a period of quiet and prayer, he decided to become a hermit. A local monk named Romanus offered to help him and showed him to a mountainside cave outside Subiaco. There Benedict spent the next three years in secret, battling to subdue his body and his will.

Finally, however, the people of the locality discovered the unkempt recluse. They began to take their problems to him, and found his instruction inspiring. After a while, the monks from a monastery at neighboring Vicovaro, having lost their superior by death, invited Benedict to become their abbot.

Benedict, knowing that these monks had a reputation for unruliness, consented only reluctantly. The monks of Vicovaro soon showed their true colors. Finding their new abbot too strict for their taste, they decided to poison him! But God revealed the plot to the intended victim; and when they brought Benedict the jug of poisoned wine, he made the sign of the cross over it and it broke into pieces. “God forgive you, brothers,” he said to them without rancor. “Why have you plotted this wicked thing against me? Go and find an abbot to your taste.” With that he left them.

Once back at Subiaco, St. Benedict responded to the appeal of the many who now sought to become his disciples by establishing in the rugged valley twelve small wooden monasteries, each accommodating twelve monks. Although each little house had its own prior, Benedict was the grand master and the spiritual father. He had not as yet written a formal monastic rule. For the time being the monks simply followed his instructions and example.

All went well for several years. Then, however, Florentius, an unworthy priest from the vicinity, who had developed an intense hatred for the abbot, started a relentless persecution of him and his monks. Around 528, therefore, Benedict and the monks suddenly abandoned Subiaco and journeyed some 48 miles southeast by the inland route to Casinum (Cassino).

On the nearby hill called Monte Cassino, Abbot Benedict laid the foundations of the famous abbey that still towers above Cassino and remains the official “mother house” of Benedictine monks. It was here, during the following decade, that the founder finally set down his rule in writing. Other monastic founders had written rules before, but Benedict’s excelled them all in balance. Most western monastic orders established since then (and many “active” orders as well) have followed or borrowed from this wise document.

By the time of his death, St. Benedict had also won a wide repute as a missionary, almsgiver, miracle-worker and prophet. Having foretold six days in advance the date of his passing, he died standing on his feet in the abbey chapel, hands raised to heaven.

His sister (and seemingly, his twin), St. Scholastica, had been superior of convents under his jurisdiction both at Subiaco and at Cassino. She had died just 40 days before, and been buried within the abbey on the mountain. Now her brother was laid to rest beside her.

Allied forces bombed the historic monastery on February 14, 1944, but it was restored by international funds in the 1950s and the shrine of the two saints was rehabilitated.

On October 24, 1964, Pope Paul VI formally declared St. Benedict patron saint of Europe. Because of the saint’s wide and enduring religious and cultural influence, the designation was fully deserved.

--Father Robert F. McNamara


Scripture Prov 2:1-9
My son, if you take my words to heart,
  if you set store by my commandments,
tuning your ear to wisdom,
  and applying your heart to truth:
yes, if your plea is for clear perception,
  if you cry out for discernment,
if you look for it as if it were silver,
  and search for it as for buried treasure,
you will then understand what the fear of the Lord is,
  and discover the knowledge of God.
For the Lord himself is giver of wisdom,
  from his mouth issue knowledge and discernment.
He keeps his help for honest men,
  he is the shield of those whose ways are honourable;
he stands guard over the paths of justice,
  he keeps watch on the way of his devoted ones.
Then you will understand what virtue is, justice, and fair dealing,
  all paths that lead to happiness.
(Year A). Hearken continually within thine heart, O son, giving attentive ear to the precepts of thy master. Understand with willing mind and effectually fulfil thy holy father’s admonition; that thou mayest return, by the labour of obedience, to Him from Whom, by the idleness of disobedience, thou hadst withdrawn. To this end I now address a word of exhortation to thee, whosoever thou art, who, renouncing thine own will and taking up the bright and all-conquering weapons of obedience, dost enter upon the service of thy true king, Christ the Lord.
In the first place, then, when thou dost begin any good thing that is to be done, with most insistent prayer beg that it may be carried through by Him to its conclusion; so that He Who already deigns to count us among the number of His children may not at any time be made aggrieved by evil acts on our part. For in such wise is obedience due to Him, on every occasion, by reason of the good He works in us; so that not only may He never, as an irate father, disinherit us His children, but also may never, as a dread-inspiring master made angry by our misdeeds, deliver us over to perpetual punishment as most wicked slaves who would not follow Him to glory.
Let us therefore now at length rise up as the Scripture incites us when it says: “Now is the hour for us to arise from sleep.” And with our eyes open to the divine light, let us with astonished ears listen to the admonition of God’s voice daily crying out and saying: “Today if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts.” And again: “He who has the hearing ear, let him hear what the Spirit announces to the churches.” And what does the Spirit say? “Come, children, listen to me: I will teach you the fear of the Lord. Run while ye have the light of life, that the shades of death envelop you not.” (Rule)
Musical Selection
O blessed by God, Saint Benedict, Let sadness not our hearts afflict. As we our praise and tribute bring Thy saintly life and glories sing. 
Refrain: St. Benedict to Thee we turn. The secrets of God's grace to learn Oh, guide us by Thy wise decrees that God alone we seek to please. 
God taught Thee to reject the wiles of sinful words which men beguile Then like a star that glitters bright God made of Thee a holy light. Refrain: 
In wondrous ray of God's own light The world appeared before thy sight Then Thou the emptiness did see of earthly things that what e'er they be. Refrain: 
Praise honor glory be to Thee. Most blessed, holy Trinity Thy love unbounded did impart to Benedict's enraptured heart.
O God,
you made the blessed abbot Benedict
an outstanding master in the school of divine service.
Give us the grace to prefer nothing to your love
and so run with overflowing hearts
in the way of your commandments.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God for ever and ever. Amen.