Widely venerated as the "Father of Western Monasticism," St. Benedict of Nursia wrote a monastic rule that has been followed continuously by monks in the West since his repose in the sixth century. His Life was first recorded by St. Gregory the Dialogist, pope of Rome, in his famous Dialogues. He is commemorated by the Church on March 14.
St. Benedict was born at Nursia, in Italy, around 470 A.D. Sent to school in Rome, he soon fled the worldliness of life in the city, abandoning his secular studies to become a monk. Although he first lived with a "company of virtuous men," soon a miracle the holy man performed, fixing a broken vessel, attracted attention. He fled once again and took up residence in a mountain cave at Subiaco, near the site of a villa built by Nero. Here St. Benedict lived in continual prayer and asceticism for three years. Eventually, God allowed his fame to spread once again, and he was asked by a nearby community of monks to become their abbot. The saint reluctantly agreed. However, the men rebelled against his ascetic directions and attempted to poison him. St. Benedict was unharmed, because as he made the sign of the cross over the poisoned drink, the cup shattered. He returned to his cave. Gradually individuals began to come to live near him at Subiaco, and in the end St. Benedict built twelve monasteries for these spiritual children, living himself at a thirteenth, Monte Cassino. St. Gregory notes a tradition that St. Benedict had a sister, St. Scholastica, who became a nun at one of his communities, and a famous story has her praying for a rainstorm on one occasion so as to enjoy more time in spiritual fellowship with her brother. Three days later, she died. St. Benedict saw her soul rising to heaven "in the likeness of a dove," and had her buried in his own tomb. (St. Scholastica is remembered on February 10.) After receiving the Eucharist, St. Benedict reposed in the oratory of his monastery, his arms lifted in prayer, in the year 543.
- By your ascetic labors, God-bearing Benedict,
- You were proven to be true to your name.
- For you were the son of benediction,
- And became a rule and model for all who emulate your life and cry:
- "Glory to Him who gave you strength!
- Glory to Him who granted you a crown!
- Glory to Him who through you grants healing to all!"
Kontakion - Tone 6
- You were enriched with God's grace;
- Your works agreed with your name,
- O Benedict, helpful servant of Christ God.
- Through prayer and fasting you were revealed to be filled with the gifts of the Spirit of God!
- You are a healer of the sick, the banisher of demons and speedy defender of our souls!
- Venerable Benedict of Nursia - OCA web site.
- St. Benedict of Nursia - entry in the Catholic Encyclopedia.