Saints of the Order of Saint Benedict – Saint Benedict, Patriarch of Monks

illustration of Saint Benedict, Patriarch of Monks, from the book 'Saints of the Order of Saint Benedict', designed by Father Amandus LiebhaberSaint Benedict was born at Nursia, in the Sabine country, in the year of our Lord 480. His father, Eutropius, a general in the Roman army, was of the illustrious family of the Anicii, and his mother, Abundantia, came of the equally noble stock of the Octavii. When he was seven years old, he was taken by his parents to Rome to be educated; but the vice and wickedness then rife in the schools so frightened the innocent soul of Saint Benedict, that he fled from the city and hid himself in the cave of Subiaco. There this young soldier of Christ, ever advancing in holiness, repelled all the attacks of Satan. The desires of the flesh he curbed by throwing himself down among rough brambles and nettles, and rolling his body over them till the thorns were covered with his blood. As time went on, the fame of his sanctity and of his miracles attracted numerous disciples, and in the neighbourhood of this cave he founded twelve monasteries.

It is stated that Saint Benedict spent thirty-five years at Subiaco before he was summoned by the Divine command to Monte Cassino, where he laboured for fourteen years, always doing good and saving souls from the Evil One. The enemy of mankind, enraged at this, made many attempts to destroy the Saint, but, thanks to the Divine assistance, they all failed.

Once when the Holy Father was descending the mountain to preach the Gospel to the neighbouring peoples, as was his custom, he came to a spot where the road lay between a steep precipice on the one side and a perpendicular cliff on the other. There an emissary of Satan seized the Saint by the middle and tried to throw him over the precipice. Saint Benedict made the sign of the Cross on himself, and pressed back against the rough rock on the other side. Where he leaned against the hard cliff, the stone, just as if it were wax, received the impression of the Saint’s limbs. The scene of this miracle was commemorated by a church being erected over it, to which even to this day many devout pilgrimages are made.

It was Saint Benedict who drew up the Monastic Rule which was adopted by all the monks of the West; it was by him and his sons that the devotion to the Blessed Mother of God was spread throughout the world; it is his great glory to have founded the Order that has given to the Church thirty-seven Popes, about two hundred Cardinals and the same number of Patriarchs, sixteen hundred Archbishops, four thousand Bishops, and fifty thousand Saints; that has built thirty-seven thousand monasteries for men, fourteen thousand convents for women, besides fifteen thousand priories; that has spread the blessings of civilisation and Christianity among so many nations.

As we have seen in the life of Saint Scholastica, Saint Benedict was permitted to behold his sister’s soul flying to Heaven in the form of a dove. His own soon followed. As became so stout a warrior, he is said to have died standing, in the sixty-third year of his age.

– text and illustration taken from Saints of the Order of Saint Benedict by Father Aegedius Ranbeck, O.S.B.