FEast: July 11th
Europe, siblings, speakers, monasteries, caves, farmers, kidney disease
Benedict was born a twin to St. Scholastica, in Nursia, Italy, but was sent to Rome to study. He quickly found, though, that the city life was not for him! He and a nurse and servant went to a quiet, country mountain town called Enfide. Here, Benedict hoped to escape the turmoil of a society that was chaotic with wars, materialism, and a vast amount of new views and ideas that he believed were detrimental. He gave up his family's wealth to do this, hoping to find some answers and solitude.
However, while out one day he met a monk named Romanus. They became friends and Benedict told him about his reasons for leaving Rome. Soon, Romanus helped Benedict to transition to being a hermit. He brought Benedict anything he needed as he decided to live in a cave for three years.
When the head abbot of a nearby monastery passed, all of a sudden, Benedict found many people on the doorstep to his cave, asking him if he would take over and lead them.
Benedict was not a big fan of the idea, having to give up his solitude, but he agreed, beginning to realize that life in community could not be avoided to do the work in the world he felt called to do. The monks realized very soon, though, that Benedict was too strict for them. They decided to poison him, but it's said that when Benedict prayed over the glass, it shattered.
He left that monastery, of course, to return to the cave. While there, it is said that he performed miracles (such as a raven appearing to take away bread that had been poisoned), and people heard about it, showing up once again to ask him to lead. He had also been a very accomplished speaker when he was in school, and Benedict began to realize a dream to begin monasteries of his own.
He established a few monasteries, but when establishing the abbey Monte Cassino, he innovated the first monastery with what we now call "Benedictine Rule" after him. He wrote down his ideas about not only how to live a good Christian life but also about how he envisioned monasteries being run.
In his rule, he advocated for eight hours of prayer, eight hours of sleep, and eight hours for working. He described how to best be humble, live in moderation, and care for people in the immediate community. His rule began to spread throughout the middle ages until, soon, all monasteries followed this rule.
Benedict was much admired while living at Monte Cassino, and performed more miracles such as commanding an oil lamp to keep burning when a stranger showed up to ask for oil and they barely had any left themselves. Despite sharing, oil began to bubble out and overflow onto the floor.
His biggest passion, though, was in words and speaking. He knew that words have such a strong power to create or destroy. Words of some sort were always spoken at his monastery, whether it was someone reading the psalms during meals, or whether it was chanting, in a style he also innovated.
Benedict passed away at the monastery, and was buried in the same place as his sister, St. Scholastica.
You, more than any saint, understand the power of words. Speaking, writing, reading, & listening - our world and our god are impossible to know without them. Remind us always to use our words powerfully. WE can change lives with them, for better, or for worse. Keep our ears open as well to the words of others. Otherwise We will miss words from God.
This piece was commissioned by someone who appreciated Benedict most for his hospitality and openness to others. she equated him with an open door - hence the nature of the t-shirt. The thing that stands out to me most about Benedict is also his passion for words and listening, so I chose the angle of his portrait based on having a focus on his ear, and mouth slightly open.