Saint Benedict of Nursia
Benedict of Nursia (Latin: Benedictus Nursiae; Italian: Benedetto da Norcia; Vulgar Latin: *Benedecto; Gothic: Benedikt; c. 2 March 480 – c. 21 March 547 AD), a Christian saint, is venerated in the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Oriental Orthodox Churches, the Anglican Communion and Old Catholic Churches. He is a patron saint of Europe.
Benedict founded twelve communities for monks at Subiaco, Lazio, Italy (about 40 miles (64 km) to the east of Rome), before moving to Monte Cassino in the mountains of southern Italy. The Order of Saint Benedict is of later origin and, moreover, not an "order" as commonly understood but merely a confederation of autonomous congregations.
Benedict's main achievement, his "Rule of Saint Benedict", contains a set of rules for his monks to follow. Heavily influenced by the writings of John Cassian, it shows strong affinity with the Rule of the Master. But it also has a unique spirit of balance, moderation and reasonableness (ἐπιείκεια, epieíkeia), and this persuaded most Christian religious communities founded throughout the Middle Ages to adopt it. As a result, his Rule became one of the most influential religious rules in Western Christendom.
Benedict had begun his monastic life as a hermit, but he had come to see the difficulties and spiritual dangers of a solitary life, even though he continued to regard it as the crown of the monastic life for a mature and experienced spirit.
His Rule is concerned with a life spent wholly in community, and among his contributions to the practices of the monastic life none is more important than his establishment of a full year’s probation, followed by a solemn vow of obedience to the Rule as mediated by the abbot of the monastery to which the monk vowed a lifelong residence.
Benedict’s supreme achievement was to provide a succinct and complete directory for the government and the spiritual and material well-being of a monastery. The abbot, elected for life by his monks, maintains supreme power and in all normal circumstances is accountable to no one. He should seek counsel of the seniors or of the whole body but is not bound by their advice. He is bound only by the law of God and the Rule, but he is continually advised that he must answer for his monks, as well as for himself, at the judgment seat of God.
He appoints his own officials—prior, cellarer (steward), novice master, guest master, and the rest—and controls all the activities of individuals and the organizations of the common life. Ownership, even of the smallest thing, is forbidden. The ordering of the offices for the canonical hours (daily services) is laid down with precision. Novices, guests, the sick, readers, cooks, servers, and porters all receive attention, and punishments for faults are set out in detail.
Remarkable as is this careful and comprehensive arrangement, the spiritual and human counsel given generously throughout the Rule is uniquely noteworthy among all the monastic and religious rules of the Middle Ages. Benedict’s advice to the abbot and to the cellarer, and his instructions on humility, silence, and obedience have become part of the spiritual treasury of the church, from which not only monastic bodies but also legislators of various institutions have drawn inspiration.
For iPad/iPhone users: tap letter twice to get list of items.