Benedict of Nursia
Feast Day: July 11 (Roman) March 14 (Byzantine)
Benedict was born to a noble family in Nursia, Italy, about 480 AD. When he grew up, he studied in Rome. Then, wanting to pray alone, Benedict lived for three years in a cave near Subiaco.
During that time, people began to talk about the holiness of the Subiaco hermit. So men came to Benedict and asked him to help them lead a holy life.
In around 529, Benedict formed these men into a community of monks at Monte Cassino, near Naples, Italy. Benedict wrote a rule, or way of life, for these monks. They promised to live in poverty; to obey their abbot, or leader; to live purely; and to stay at Monte Cassino and not run off when things got hard.
In his rule, Benedict also set up eight times a day for the monks to pray together. By praying the Psalms, they would praise and honor God. Prayer would help them live with one another in community. (Benedict knew that this was not always easy!) The “Rule of St. Benedict,” with 73 short chapters on spiritual and administrative concerns, is one of the most famous rules in monastic life.
For the next 20 years, Benedict served the monks as their abbot and founded 12 monasteries. He encouraged the monks to serve one another and to help the people who lived nearby.
Then, in about 547, Benedict died. The monks buried him next to his twin sister, Scholastica, at Monte Cassino.
The rule Benedict wrote has influenced Western civilization since his death. The monasteries that followed it kept learning alive in Europe throughout the centuries of the Dark Ages.
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