The Father of Western Monasticism

St. Benedict

Fast Facts about St. Benedict of Nursia:

  • Lived during the time when the Roman Empire was in decline (late 5th-mid 6th centuries).
  • Studied in Rome for a short period.
  • After Rome, he lived in a cave in the mountain of Subiaco, outside of Rome.
  • Founded many monasteries and especially one on the mountain above Cassino.
  • Monte Cassino would become the great center for religious life in Europe.
  • Was an Abbot and developed a “Rule” for his monks.
  • The “Rule” became the core for all religious life throughout Western Europe.
  • Benedict says his Rule is “a little rule for beginners.”
  • Saint Pope Gregory the Great wrote a book called The Dialogues about St. Benedict. It contains all we know about St. Benedict.

Excerpts from The Rule of St. Benedict:

Prologue:

“First of all, every time you begin a good work, you must pray to him most earnestly to bring it to perfection. In his goodness, he has already counted us as his sons, and therefore we never grieve him by our evil actions “(4-5).

Chapter 4: The Tools For Good Works

“Your way of acting should be different from the world’s way; the love of Christ must come before all else. You are not to act in anger or nurse a grudge. Rid your heart of all deceit. Never give a hollow greeting of peace or turn away when someone needs your love. Bind yourself to no oath lest it prove false, but speak the truth with heart and tongue” (20-28).

Chapter 7: Humility

“The first step of humility, then, is that a man keeps the fear of God always before his eyes (Ps 35 [36]:2) and never forgets it. He must constantly remember everything God has commanded, keeping in mind that all who despise God will burn in hell for their sins, and all who fear God have everlasting life awaiting them” (11-13) There is a total of 12 steps to humility.

Chapter 20: Reverence in Prayer

“Whenever we want to ask some favor of a powerful man, we do it humbly and respectfully, for fear of presumption. How much more important, then, to lay our petitions before the Lord God of all things with the utmost humility and sincere devotion…Prayer should therefore be short and pure…” (1-2, 4).

Chapter 40: The Proper Amount of Drink

“We read that monks should not drink wine at all, but since monks of our day cannot be convinced of this, let us at least agree to drink moderately, and not to the point of excess, for wine makes even wise men go astray (Sir 19:2)” (6-7).

Chapter 48: The Daily Manual Labor

“Idleness is the enemy of the soul. Therefore, the brothers should have specified periods for manual labor as well as for prayerful reading” (1).

Chapter 73: This Rule Only A Beginning of Perfection

“The reason we have written this rule is that, by observing it in monasteries, we can show that we have some degree of virtue and the beginnings of monastic life….Then with Christ’s help, keep this little rule that we have written for beginners” (1,8).

One thought on “The Father of Western Monasticism

  1. Thank you for this post! I am fascinated with St. Benedict. I especially like “He must constantly remember everything God has commanded.” This helps me to stay clos to God in my daily walk with Him.

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