The Benedictines

Benedict of Nursia, From the Church of San Nazaro Maggiore in Milan St. Benedict of Nursia: 
the Father of Western Monasticism

Origins

Born around the year 480, Benedict of Nursia was the son of an Italian nobleman from the region of Umbria.  His literary studies led him to a make a careful assessment of the Gospels and the principles laid out therein.  After much thought and prayer, Benedict sought to lead a life of Christian perfection by retiring from Rome to the small town of Subiaco.  There he lived the life of a hermit, and as his reputation for holiness spread, he eventually attracted a group of followers who wished to emulate his lifestyle.  The precepts he gave to them are known as the Regula Benedicti (Rule of St. Benedict) and they became the leading guide for monastic communities in the Christian West.

The Benedictine Rule is characterized by regular prayer.  The day was divided by the Liturgy of Hours, which laid out eight occasions for prayer--Mattins, Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, Nones, Vespers, and Compline.  The Book of Common Prayer derives its Daily office from this monastic cycle of prayer.  In addition to prayer and contemplation, monks were expected to work, hence the Benedictine motto of ora et labora (pray and work).  In fact, the Benedictines were responsible for much in the way of reclamation of land, as forests were cleared and swamps were drained in order to make room for the growing monasteries of the early middle ages.  Not all monks were engaged in manual labor, however, and the copying and preservation of texts was of major importance.

By the high middle ages, the Benedictines had spread from their Italian homeland across all of Western Europe, and though they were at times seen as corrupt and in need of reform (such instances led to the formation of new orders such as the Trappists and Cistercians), they remained one of the most important and influential orders in medieval Europe.  Though with the dissolution of the monasteries, the Benedictines were for a time expelled from England, they later returned in both the Roman Catholic and Anglican Communions.  The Order of Saint Benedict in the ACC traces its origins to these ancient roots.

Benedictines in the North America

The Order of Saint Benedict is a monastic order of men within the Continuing Anglican Church. The Order was Instituted on August 28, 1981 at the call and by the order of The Right Reverend Addison Hosea, Bishop of Lexington of the Episcopal Church.  On December 13, 1986 the monks of the Bethlehem Priory were received into the Anglican Catholic Church and regularized by The Right Reverend William O. Lewis, then Bishop of the Midwest.

The Bethlehem Priory is made up of some sixteen rooms -- bedrooms or 'cells', common rooms, office area, kitchen, refectory, etc. The community library (St. Gregory's Library) contains over 4,000 volumes and is a center of study. The priory is currently being reorganized to offer opportunities for prayer retreat.  For more information, contact the Bishop of the Diocese of the Midwest, the Right Reverend Rommie Starks.

An associated order is the Congregation of the Good Samaritan, based in Metairie, LA.  The Congregation is under the direction of Father John Benedict, Governor General and Sister Anne, Governess.  For more information, or to contact the directors, visit the CGS website.