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Saint Benedict

Saint Benedict

Herman Nieg, “Saint Benedict of Nursia”, 1926 – Image in public domain

 

Saint Benedict (480 – 547) was born in Nursia, Italy, into a noble family. He had a twin sister, Scholastica, who is also a canonised saint.

While he was still a child, his family moved to Rome. However, he left the city before turning 20, repulsed by the moral depravity surrounding him. He settled in Enfide, modern-day Affile. Here, St Benedict performed his first miracle, restoring a pot his servant had broken. The attention brought to him by this miracle drove him to seek greater solitude, and he retired to a cave where he spent his time in prayer, fasting, and manual labour.

His strict lifestyle so offended the lax religious with whom he came into contact that twice they attempted to kill him. Once, by giving him a glass of poisoned wine. When he blessed the cup before drinking, it shattered, spilling the poisoned wine on the table. In the other instance, he was given a poisoned loaf of bread. When he blessed it, a crow swooped down onto the table, grabbed the bread, and flew away with it.

Gradually, many good, devout men wishing to lead a similar life joined Saint Benedict. As the number of his followers grew, he left his eremitical life to found monasteries to house them. He also wrote a rule for them that is followed to this day by all Benedictine monks. In 530, he founded the great Benedictine monastery of Monte Cassino, which lies on a hilltop between Rome and Naples.

In the spring of 547, soon after his sister’s death and sensing his approaching death, St Benedict had a grave dug and instructed his followers that he should be buried there along with his sister. He died six days later, on March 21, and was buried according to his directions. Today, he is venerated as one of the patron saints of Europe and of monastic life.

 

 

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