July 11, 2008

St Benedict

Depending on what calendar you use, it looks like Benedict has two feast days. Today the 11th is his day, as is the day he died, March 21st. I think I read somewhere that they didn't want to celebrate him during lent, so moved his remembrance date.

Benedict is the founder of Western monasticism and had an immense influence on the Christianization of Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire. His "how-to" book for monks, the Rule of St Benedict, is one of the basic documents of the Middle Ages, those centuries during which monasteries were Europe's only surviving centers of art, learning, and civilization.

He lived during the first half of the sixth century, born in Italy, of noble parents. His twin sister, Scholastica (strange name, I wonder if she lived up to her name - brainy!) has a day on the church calendar too.

He was dedicated to the principle that "to work is to pray" - thereby opposing the foolish prejudice of those unenlightened days against manual labor. He layed the foundation for the greatest monastery in all Christendom: Monte Cassino.

He said: "If you are really a servant of Jesus Christ, let the chain of love hold you firm in your resolve, not a chain of iron."

What I may do some day, since I've not seen one, is create a chart of all the Christian monastic groups to see where they most differed. I'd like to understand each of their roots: Benedictine, Franciscan, Carmelite, Dominican, Augustinian and Jesuit orders, mainly. I do know the Jesuits seemed to push more in the education, knowledge realm, yet Thomas Aquinas, at the height of the Scholastic era, chose to be associated with the Dominicans.

The bits of history I do know show me so many of these orders began during times of great social change. Like when Constantine made the empire Christian and you were persecuted if you were NOT a Christian - the Desert Fathers and Mothers sought a new holy way of life. Benedict was at the timing of Barbarians ransacking all of Europe, and we'd not have so much literature and art work saved, if not for those monasteries. When the merchant era of Europe was beginning, Francis sought to show a dependance on God's providing...We have monasteries to thank for their missionary and philanthropic work and as islands of refuge. And then unfortunately, the Reformation destroyed most of the monasteries of northern Europe.

Today there's a new monastic movement stirring. The Holy Spirit is moving in new ways. I've heard and read of many groups of peoples living out the Gospel today in exciting ways and places, all over the world. It isn't a call to return to the Middle Ages but challenges us to open our imaginations to new possibilities.
Post a Comment
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...