Saint Benedict of Nursia





“Whatever good work you begin to do, beg of God with most earnest prayer to perfect it.”



Saint Benedict (Benedictus Nursiae) is the Patron Saint of Europe who is famous for his creation of the Rule of Saint Benedict, a Rule that became one of the most influential religious Rules in all of Western Christianity.






Saint Benedict was the son of a Roman nobleman in the area of Nursia, then in Umbria (Odoacer's Kingdom) and was born on March 2nd, 480 AD. The Venerable Bede recorded that he was a twin of Saint Scholastica. He was sent abroad to Rome around the year 500 AD but found Rome disappointing, specifically being disappointed by the lifestyle he was forced to undertake while in Rome. This disappointment led to him leaving with his old nurse to live in the Simbruini mountains in a small town known as Enfide. On his way from Enfide one morning he met a monk, Saint Romanus of Subiaco, who convinced Saint Benedict that he should take up a religouis life. Saint Benedict began to live as a hermit in a cave above a lake for the next three years.


For the next three years Saint Benedict broke his solitude very infrequently, often going months with only seeing Saint Romanus when he would visit the cave with food and supplies. The monks in a nearby monastery began to learn more of Saint Benedict and revered his holiness and peacefulness so much that when their abbot died they begged Saint Benedict to come serve as abbot. Once he arrived though, the monks found that their manners and discipline were very different than that of Saint Benedict's and actually tried to poison his drink. Legend holds that when they passed the cup to him, Saint Benedict prayed a blessing over it and the cup shattered. After this failed attempt at poison, Saint Benedict left and stayed in his cave once more.





He would find little solitude in the cave though, as a local priest by the name of Florentius had become very envious of Saint Benedict. One afternoon he brought him poisoned bread but when Saint Benedict prayed his blessing over the bread a raven swept down and snatched the poisoned bread away. After his failure to kill Saint Benedict with bread, the priest then sent numerous prostitutes all of which were turned away. Saint Benedict left the cave around 530 AD as he realized a hermit and solitary life was no longer being asked of him.


As he travelled, Saint Benedict founded 12 separate monasteries around Subiaco before founding the Benedictine monastery of Monte Cassino on a hilltop between Rome and Naples. His Rule comprised seventy-three chapters and is split between two areas - spiritual and administrative. Over half of the chapters include explanations on how one should be obedient and humble and what to do when a member refuses to be so. It follows the rule of Ora et Labora with the monks devoting eight hours of prayer, eight to sleep, and eight for manual work, sacred reading and works of charity.





Shortly after burying his twin sister, Saint Scholastica, Saint Benedict fell ill with fever and died at Monte Cassino. Tradition holds this date as happening on March 21st, 547 AD. Saint Pope Paul VI declared Saint Benedict to be the Patron Protector of Europe in 1964 and in 1980 Saint Pope John Paul II named him the co-patron of Europe alongside Saint Cyril and Saint Methodius. Before the 1969 revision of the General Roman Calendar, Saint Benedict's feast day was celebrated on March 21st, the date of his death. This feast date was moved during the revision as it would almost always fall within Lent. It was moved to July 11th. The Eastern Orthodox Church still commemorates Saint Benedict on March 14th while the Church of England celebrates him with a Lesser Festival on July 11th.


The Saint Benedict Medal is a very famous devotional medal that originally came from a cross in honor of Saint Benedict. On one side the medal contains an image of Saint Benedict holding a cross and the Holy Rule - there is a raven on one side and a cup on the other. Around the margin of the medal the words Eius in obitu nostro praesentia muniamur (May we be strengthened by his presence in the hour of our death). The otherside of the medal has a cross with the initials CSSML on the vertical bar (CSSML - Crux Sacra Sit Mihi Lux, May the Holy Cross be my Light) and the horizontal bar contains the initials NDSMD (NDSMD - Non-Draco Sit Mihi Dux, Let not the dragon be my guide). Around the interior angles of the cross are the letters CSPB (CSPB - Crux Sancti Patris Benedicti - the Cross of the Holy Father Benedict). On the margins here the initials VRSNSMV (VRSNSMV - Vade Retro Satana Nonquam Suade Mihi Vana, Begone Satan, do not suggest to me thy vanities) followed by a space and the initials SMQLIVB (SMQLIVB - Sunt Mala Quae Libas, Ipse Venena Bibas, Evil are the things thou profferest, drink thou thy own poison).




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