Saint of the Day – 11 July – St Benedict of Nursia O.S.B. – Abbot Patron of Europe (Patronus Europae) – Also known as: Benedict of Narsia, Benedict of Norsia, Benedetto da Norcia, Founder of Western Monasticism – (c 480, Narsia, Umbria, Italy – 21 March 547 of a fever while in prayer at Monte Cassino, Italy). He buried beneath the high altar there in the same tomb as Saint Scholastica. He was Canonised in 1220 by Pope Honorius III. Patronages: Co-Patron of Europe, Against poison, Against witchcraft, Agricultural workers, Cavers, Civil engineers, Coppersmiths, Dying people, Erysipelas, Europe, Farmers, Fever, Gall stones, Heerdt (Germany), Heraldry and Officers of arms, the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, Inflammatory diseases, Italian architects, Kidney disease, Monks, Nettle rash, Norcia, (Italy), People in religious orders, Schoolchildren and students, Servants who have broken their master’s belongings, Temptations.
Benedict was born into a distinguished family in central Italy, studied at Rome and early in life was drawn to monasticism. At first he became a hermit, leaving a depressing world—pagan armies on the march, the Church torn by schism, people suffering from war, morality at a low ebb.
He soon realised that he could not live a hidden life in a small town any better than in a large city, so he withdrew to a cave high in the mountains for three years. Some monks chose Benedict as their leader for a while, but found his strictness not to their taste. Still the shift from hermit to community life had begun for him. He had an idea of gathering various families of monks into one “Grand Monastery” to give them the benefit of unity, fraternity and permanent worship in one house. Finally he began to build what was to become one of the most famous monasteries in the world—Monte Cassino, commanding three narrow valleys running toward the mountains north of Naples.
The Rule that gradually developed prescribed a life of liturgical prayer, study, manual labor, and living together in community under a common abbot. Benedictine asceticism is known for its moderation, and Benedictine charity has always shown concern for the people in the surrounding countryside. In the course of the Middle Ages, all monasticism in the West was gradually brought under the Rule of St. Benedict.
Today the Benedictine family is represented by two branches: the Benedictine Federation encompassing the men and women of the Order of St. Benedict and the Cistercians, men and women of the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance.
St Benedict died at Monte Cassino not long after his sister, Saint Scholastica. Benedict died of a high fever on the day God had told him he was to die and was buried in the same place as his sister. According to tradition, this occurred on 21 March 543 or 547. He was named patron protector of Europe by Pope Paul VI in 1964. In 1980, Pope John Paul II declared him co-patron of Europe, together with Saints Cyril and Methodius.
Rule of Saint Benedict
Seventy-three short chapters comprise the Rule. Its wisdom is of two kinds: spiritual (how to live a Christocentric life on earth) and administrative (how to run a monastery efficiently). More than half the chapters describe how to be obedient and humble and what to do when a member of the community is not. About one-fourth regulate the work of God (the Opus Dei). One-tenth outline how and by whom, the monastery should be managed.
Following the golden rule of Ora et Labora – pray and work, the monks each day devoted eight hours to prayer, eight hours to sleep and eight hours to manual work, sacred reading, or works of charity
Saint Benedict Medal, front.
On the front of the medal is Saint Benedict holding a cross in his right hand, the object of his devotion and in the left his rule for monasteries. In the back is a poisoned cup, in reference to the legend of Benedict, which explains that hostile monks attempted to poison him: the cup containing poisoned wine shattered when the saint made the sign of the cross over it (and a raven carried away a poisoned loaf of bread). Above the cup are the words Crux sancti patris Benedicti (“The Cross of [our] Holy Father Benedict”). Surrounding the figure of Saint Benedict are the words Eius in obitu nostro praesentia muniamur! (“May we be strengthened by his presence in the hour of our death”), since he was always regarded by the Benedictines as the patron of a happy death.
On the back is a cross, containing the letters C S S M L – N D S M D, initials of the words Crux sacra sit mihi lux! Non [Nunquam?] draco sit mihi dux! (“May the holy cross be my light! May the dragon never be my overlord!”). The large C S P B stand for Crux Sancti Patris Benedicti (“The Cross of [our] Holy Father Benedict”). Surrounding the back of the medal are the letters V R S N S M V – S M Q L I V B, in reference to Vade retro satana: Vade retro Satana! Nunquam suade mihi vana! Sunt mala quae libas. Ipse venena bibas! (“Begone Satan! Never tempt me with your vanities! What you offer me is evil. Drink the poison yourself!”) and finally, located at the top is the word PAX which means “peace”
Use of the Medal
There is no special way prescribed for carrying or wearing the Medal of St. Benedict. It can be worn on a chain around the neck, attached to one’s rosary, kept in one’s pocket or purse, or placed in one’s car or home. The medal is often put into the foundations of houses and building, on the walls of barns and sheds, or in one’s place of business.
The purpose of using the medal in any of the above ways is to call down God’s blessing and protection upon us, wherever we are and upon our homes and possessions, especially through the intercession of St. Benedict. By the conscious and devout use of the medal, it becomes, as it were, a constant silent prayer and reminder to us of our dignity as followers of Christ.
The medal is a prayer of exorcism against Satan, a prayer for strength in time of temptation, a prayer for peace among ourselves and among the nations of the world, a prayer that the Cross of Christ be our light and guide, a prayer of firm rejection of all that is evil, a prayer of petition that we may with Christian courage “walk in God’s ways, with the Gospel as our guide,” as St. Benedict urges us.
A profitable spiritual experience can be ours if we but take the time to study the array of inscriptions and representations found on the two sides of the medal. The lessons found there can be pondered over and over to bring true peace of mind and heart into our lives as we struggle to overcome the weaknesses of our human nature and realize that our human condition is not perfect, but that with the help of God and the intercession of the saints our condition can become better.
The Medal of St. Benedict can serve as a constant reminder of the need for us to take up our cross daily and “follow the true King, Christ our Lord,” and thus learn “to share in his heavenly kingdom,” as St. Benedict urges us in the Prologue of his Rule.