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Benedict of Nursia
Abbot of Monte Cassino, C. 540

St.Benedict by Fra.Angelico


Psalm 1 or 34:1-8
Proverbs 2:1-9
Luke 14:27-33


Almighty and everlasting God, whose precepts are the wisdom of a loving Father: Give us grace, following the teaching and example of your servant Benedict, to walk with loving and willing hearts in the school of the Lord's service; let your ears be open to our prayers; and prosper with your blessing the work of our hands; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Benedict is generally accounted the father of Western monasticism. He was born about 480, at Nursia in central Italy, and was educated in Rome. The style of life he found there disgusted him. Rome at this time was overrun by various barbarian tribes; the period was one of considerable political instability, a breakdown of western society, and the beginnings of barbarian kingdoms. Benedict's disapproval of the manners and morals of Rome led him to a vocation of monastic seclusion. He withdrew to a hillside cave about Lake Subiaco, about forty miles west of Rome, where there was already at least one other monk. Gradually, a community grew up around Benedict. Sometime between 525 and 530, he moved south with some of his disciples to Monte Cassino, midway between Rome and Naples, wehre he established another community, and in about 540, composed his monastic Rule. He does not appear to have been ordained or to have contemplated the founding of an "order." He died sometime between 540 and 550 and was buried in the same grave as his sister, Scholastica.

No personality or text in the history of monasticism, it has been said, has occasioned more studies than Benedict and his rule. The major problem for historians is the question of how much of the rule is original. This is closely related to the question of the date of another, very similar but anonymous, rule for monks, know as the "Rule of the Master," which may antedate Benedict's Rule by ten years. This does not detract from the fat that Benedict's firm but reasonable rule has been the basic source document from which most later monastic rules were derived. Its average day provides for a little over four hours to be spent in liturgical prayer, a little over five hours in spiritual reading, about six hours of work, one hour for eating, and about eight hours of sleep. The entire Psalter is to be recited in the Divine Office once every week.

At profession, the new monk takes vows of "stability, amendment of life, and obedience." Pope Gregory the Great wrote Benedict's Life in the second book of his Dialogues. He adopted Benedict's monasticism as an instrument of evangelization when in 596 he sent Augustine and his companions to convert the Anglo-Saxon people (England). In the Anglican Communion today, the rules of many religious orders are influenced by Benedict's rule.

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