Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Rule of St. Benedict (Part 1)

On July 11th, a week from today, we will celebrate the feast of St. Benedict of Nursia (ca. 480 AD - 543 AD).  St. Benedict was born near Rome to a noble family, and began his education in the great capital, but as a young man in the midst of his studies Benedict fled the city.  He retired to a remote valley near Subiaco, about 40 miles from Rome, where he spent three years in solitude.  According to Pope St. Gregory the Great, who in 593 wrote the short life of St. Benedict which provides us with much of what we know of the saint, "[f]or God's sake [Benedict] deliberately chose the hardships of life and the weariness of labour."  During these years, Benedict grew in wisdom as well as in the esteem of other monks in the vicinity.  When the abbot of the nearby monastery at Vicovaro died, the monks begged Benedict to become their abbot.  Despite misgivings, Benedict consented.  Things did not turn out well, (the monks tried to poison Benedict), and he soon returned to his life of solitude in the cave near Subiaco.   Benedict continued to grow in sanctity and attract followers, and eventually founded thirteen monasteries around Subiaco.  For the government of these communities Benedict provided his Rule.  The Rule became the basis for most monasticism in the West, and for this reason Benedict is called "the father of Western monasticism."  Benedict's Rule is for monks, who were largely laymen seeking to live the Gospel fully.   All the faithful can therefore profit by reading Benedict's Rule, and we will be considering portions of it throughout the month.

The following is taken from the Prologue of The Rule of St. Benedict:

"Let us encompass ourselves with faith and the practice of good works, and guided by the Gospel, tread the path He has cleared for us.  Thus may we deserve to see Him who has called us into His Kingdom."

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