Saint Benedict of Norcia
Benedict was born at Norcia in Umbria about the year 480. He is reputed to have been of noble birth and to have studied at Rome. Desiring to give himself wholly to Christ Jesus, he betook himself to a deep cave at a place called Subiaco, wherein he hid himself in prayer and contemplation for three years. But then his fame spread abroad, and some monks living nearby put themselves under him for guidance. Which same, it is said, turned against him because of his insistence upon complete dedication to God, and even plotted to poison him. But when Benedict made the Sign of the Cross over the cup, it brake. Whereupon the holy father left his unworthy monks and retired to a desert place alone.
Nevertheless, disciples came to him again, and finally he established for them the famous Abbey of Monte Cassino, and set holy laws to govern them. Up until his time the monasteries in the West, for want of proper direction, had not flourished. The regulations which this father wrote are known as the Holy Rule, and in time nearly all the monasteries of Europe adopted the same, so that Saint Benedict became the Lawgiver and Patriarch of monks in the West as Saint Basil was in the East. The monks of Saint Benedict of later times, schooled under the Holy Rule, taught the barbarians of Europe to think and work, and to worship Christ. For which reason holy Benedict might well be called the father of western civilization.
The little which we know of Saint Benedict, apart from his Rule, is to be found in Book II of the Dialogues of Saint Gregory the Great, wherein it is shewn that he was a man as loveable as he was great. He passed to God on the twenty-first of March, in the year 543, and the Mass composed in his honour is to be found in the Missal as the Common of Abbots. He was famous for prophecy and miracles, and two of his monks said that at his death they saw him going to God, clothed in glistering white raiment, and surrounded with light.
GRANT, we beseech thee, O Lord, that the prayers of thy holy Abbot, blessed Benedict may commend us unto thee: that we, who have no power of ourselves to help ourselves, may by his advocacy find favor in thy sight. Through the same our Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the same Spirit ever, one God, world without end. Amen.
The Anglican Breviary, Frank Gavin Liturgical Foundation, Inc., New York, 1955, pages 1145-1146
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