A Garner of Saints – Saint Benedict

illustration of Saint Benedict of Nursia in a white habit, from 'A Garner of Saints', 1900, artist unknownArticle

(Italian: Benedetto; French: Benoit; Spanish: Benito) Born at Norcia in Umbria in 480 of distinguished parents. However, when his father took him to Rome to study, the youthful Benedict ran away to the desert. Thither his nurse followed him, as she loved him tenderly. One day she broke a sieve in putting it carelessly upon the table; when Benedict came in and found her weeping, he held the broken fragments together, prayed over them, and made the sieve whole again. Soon after this Benedict escaped from his nurse and lived a life of complete seclusion at Subiaco for three years, his retreat being known only to Saint Romanus, who ministered to him by letting food down to him. Romanus first made his presence known by a bell, and although the devil broke this, yet he continued to serve the young anchorite. After a while Romanus left, but Benedict was not oppressed by any fear of want. One Easter day a priest was preparing his repast when the Lord appeared to him and told him that Benedict was suffering from hunger. The priest rose, and after much trouble found the saint and said, “Rise and eat for this is Easter day”; so they both blessed God and took the meal together. One day a black bird visited Benedict, but on his making the sign of the cross it flew away. Soon after his heart was much moved at the remembrance of a beautiful woman whom he had seen, and he felt tempted to leave his solitude, but coming to himself he jumped naked into the midst of the thorns and sharp rocks, and from that time he suffered no further from carnal desire. His fame increased to such an extent that a community of monks came to beg him to be their master, and after long hesitation he at length consented. However, they soon repented of their choice on account of the strictness of his rule, and a monk offered him a cup of poisoned wine to drink. As the saint made the. sign of the cross over it, according to his custom, the cup broke to atoms. Benedict then arose and left them, recognising that his manners did not accord with theirs, and retired once more into solitude. Benedict’s solitude did not endure for long, for his fame drew crowds to the spot and he erected twelve monasteries. In one of these monasteries there was a monk who, while the others were at prayer, went out to vain and worldly pleasures. Benedict perceived that he was being dragged out by a black child, invisible to the others. The next day after prayers Benedict found the errant monk outside, and struck him with his rod, after which the monk continued attentive and devout. Two children named Maur and Placidus had been brought to the saint at this time by their fathers, with a request that he would bring them up to a saintly life. Three of the monasteries were situated on a steep mountain, where water could only be obtained with great difficulty. The monks came to the saint requesting him to choose another spot, but that night he went to the mountain to pray, with a child, and left three stones to mark the spot. When the friars came again to him he directed them to go and dig at the place where the three stones were, and there they found an abundant supply of water. A man employed to cut wood let the iron of his hatchet fall down a precipice, the saint however came up and held the handle of the hatchet over the abyss and the iron at once rose and joined itself to it. On another occasion Placidus went out of the monastery to draw water, but fell into the stream, and was rapidly carried away. Benedict learned the event by a vision, and calling Maur sent him to rescue his brother monk. Maur ran forward, and walking on the water as if it had been dry land, pulled out Placidus by the hair. A priest named Florentius, envious of Benedict’s reputation, sent him a poisoned loaf as a present. The saint threw it to a raven whom he habitually fed, and ordered the bird to take it to some place where it would do no harm. After a repeated order the raven took the bread and returned at the end of three days for its accustomed pittance. This plan having failed, Florentius endeavoured to corrupt the monks by sending seven naked girls to play and sing in the garden of the monastery. This induced Benedict to change his habitation, whereat Florentius rejoiced, but was crushed to death by the walls of his house falling on him. Maur joyfully ran to tell Benedict the news, but the saint rebuked him, and imposed a penance upon him for showing satisfaction, and refusing to return, proceeded to Monte Cassino. Here there was a temple of Apollo, but Benedict consecrated it and converted the people. In order to divert him from his purpose, the devil appeared to him in a horrible form, with fire issuing from his mouth and eyes, but he was undeterred. However, Satan did his utmost to hinder the building of the monastery. One day there was a large stone which the monks failed to move, but on Benedict giving them his blessing, it was taken away and put in its place without difficulty. When the building was already well advanced Benedict perceived the devil, and warned his monks” of danger. At that moment a great piece of wall fell, killing a monk. The saint caused the body to be brought to him, and restored him to life. Totila, king of the Goths, wishing to try the saint, sent his squire to him decked out in regal splendour, but when Benedict saw him, he said, “My son, remove that, for it does not belong to you,” whereupon the squire was smitten with fear, and fell to the ground. During a famine the friars one day found themselves with only five loaves. The saint chided them for their fears, and promised them abundance for the morrow; when the day came 200 bushels of flour were found at the gate of the monastery without anyone knowing how they came there. A man having a child afiiicted with a grave disease of the skin sent him to the saint, who immediately healed him. Benedict’s sister, Saint Scolastica, inhabited a nunnery not far from her brother’s house. On one occasion her brother visited her for the purpose of spending. the day in religious discourse. As night approached he determined to go, but his sister besought him to stay, and finding him obdurate, she knelt and prayed, and the sky which had been clear, became overcast, and there was such a tempest of thunder and rain, that Benedict was forced to remain until -the morning. Not long after Scolastica died, and Benedict saw her soul ascending to heaven in the form of a dove. His own end was approaching, and he announced it to his monks. On the sixth day he caused himself to be carried to the oratory, and took the sacrament, supported by h_is disciples, and so expired.” His death was revealed to two friars, who saw a richly carpeted road lighted with lamps leading from his cell to heaven. A richly clothed man came to ask the meaning of this road, and as they shook their heads, there came a voice, saying, It is the road by which Benedict, the friend of Jesus Christ, has ascended to heaven. His death took place in the year 543, at the age of sixty-three. 21st March.

Attributes

  • Wears the habit of the order of Saint Benedict, which was originally white, but was afterwards changed to black. By him are a raven and a broken sieve.

MLA Citation

  • Allen Banks Hinds, M.A. “Saint Benedict”. A Garner of Saints, 1900. CatholicSaints.Info. 14 April 2017. Web. 21 July 2017. <>