Saint Benedict was born in Nursia in central Italy around the year 480. He was born to a noble family, and after being homeschooled, he was sent to Rome to complete his education. The teenaged Benedict was already turning toward the Lord, and when he went to Rome, he was disappointed and dismayed by the lazy, profligate ways of the other young students.
Benedict was born into a time of immense social upheaval. The once grand Roman Empire was on its last legs. The ancient city of Rome was crumbling due to decadence from within and attacks from without. Seventy years before Benedict’s birth the city fell to the invasions of the barbarians. The civil authority was in tatters, the city had been stripped of its grandeur, and the Church herself was beset with corruption and theological arguments. Benedict left the chaos of the city and sought a quiet place to study in the mountains north of Rome. Near the town of Subiaco, he found a community of holy men, and settled near them to pursue a life of prayer.
Eventually Benedict was asked to be the leader of the community. When that went wrong, he left to start his own monastic community. One community soon grew to twelve, and to establish these new communities on a sound foundation Benedict, wrote his simple Rule. We mustn’t think of Benedict’s communities as the great monasteries that existed in the Middle Ages. In the sixth century, Benedict’s small communities consisted of perhaps twenty people. They scratched their living from the land just like the other peasants with whom they lived. The only difference is that Benedict’s monks observed celibacy, lived together, and followed a disciplined life of prayer, work, and study. This simple, serious life was to prove a powerful antidote to the decadent chaos of the crumbling Roman Empire.
Saint Benedict died on March 21, 547. After receiving Communion, he died with his arms outstretched, surrounded by his brothers. He left behind a legacy that would change the world. The monasteries became centers of learning, agriculture, art, and every useful craft. In this way, without directly intending it, the monasteries deeply affected the social, economic, and political life of the emergent Christian Europe. The monastic schools formed the pattern for the later urban cathedral schools, which in turn led to the founding of universities. In this way, monasticism preserved and handed on the wisdom of both Athens and Jerusalem, the foundations of Western civilization. It is for this reason that Saint Benedict is named the patron of Europe.
Benedict is a great figure in the history of Western Europe, but his life and writings also give us a sure guide for a practical spiritual life today. His practical Rule for monks in the sixth century provides - 8 - principles for Christian living that are as relevant and applicable today as they have been for the last 1,500 years.
THE RULE OF SAINT BENEDICT
The earliest Christian monks started their lives of prayer in the Egyptian desert in the middle of the fourth century, and their monastic traditions grew for the next two hundred years. Various authors had written instructions on how to live the monastic life. Like other monastic leaders, Benedict also wrote a rule of life. Although it draws from the earlier rules, The Rule of Saint Benedict is very different from other monastic rules.
Benedict was a genius at understanding human nature. One of the most famous of Benedict’s lines is that nothing in the monastic life should be “harsh or burdensome.” READ MORE…