The Great Saint Benedict of Nursia–His Legacy includes being Father of all Western monks and the Benedictine Order Order

St. Benedict  (Eastern Icon)_ public domain

By Larry Peterson

Pope St. Gregory the Great, considered one of the greatest popes, is famous for writing the books known as the Dialogues of St. Gregory. The Dialogues are presented in four volumes where everything from the lives of the saints, to miracles, and even discussion on the eternity of the soul take place.

But Volume Two of the Dialogues is dedicated to just one person. That man is none other than Benedict of Nursia. Volume Two is spread out into thirty-eight chapters. It is the only recognized authority on Benedict’s life, a life that has left an indelible mark on the Catholic faith. Included in his legacy is what is known as the Rule of St. Benedict. The Rule is used in convents and monasteries around the world to this very day. Let’s meet St. Benedict.

St. Gregory details many signs and wonders in his Dialogues. However, when it comes to Benedict, and without using dates, his writing becomes historical. It begins with Benedict being born sometime around the year 480 A.D and having a twin sister, named Scholastica. They were born of good parents, and their father was a Roman noble of Nursia. Benedict was sent to Roman schools while Scholastica, being a woman, would stay at home until ready for marriage.

Gregory writes that Benedict left school sometime around the year 500. He had mastered a solid background of moral principle and decency. Combined with a solid understanding of what it meant for those who chose to lead corrupt and immoral lives, he knew his life would always point toward godliness.  It was during this time frame when Benedict fell deeply in love with a woman. The couple did break up, and this deeply affected him. It was after this part of his life that he left Rome. His purpose was to become a hermit.

Benedict settled down about forty miles from Rome, finding a suitable cave in the Simbruini Mountains. After a short while, Benedict met a monk named Romanus of Subiaco. Romanus wanted to know why Benedict had come to the area. Upon explanation by Benedict, Romanus, who had a monastery on the top of the mountain, gave Benedict the monk’s habit and then approved of him being a hermit for the next three years.

During this period, Romanus would bring Benedict food, which he lowered down by rope. At the same time, Benedict matured both in mind and character. His life of discipline and solitude also won him the respect of local Christians. When the abbot of a nearby monastery died, the monks came to him and asked him to be their new abbot.

Benedict knew of their lax discipline and rejected their offer. They pleaded with him, and he finally agreed. But Benedict’s strict rules angered the insubordinate monks, and they tried to poison him. He prayed over the cup holding the poison, and it shattered.  Benedict promptly returned to his cave.

During his years of solitude, Benedict grew in wisdom and understanding, especially of people in general. He became highly respected and began the construction of thirteen monasteries. In the first twelve,  he placed a superior with twelve monks. Benedict moved into the thirteenth monastery and lived with a smaller number of monks. He was their abbot as well as head abbot for the other twelve. It was from this time that miracles attributed to Benedict became more and more frequent.

Benedict’s prophetic powers became legendary. He predicted the death of the King of the Goths and foretold that the Lombards would close one of his monasteries.  He also was given knowledge of the sins of the monks and nuns under his care. Legend has it that when a child was crushed to death by a collapsing wall, Benedict raised him from the dead, healed his body, and sent him back to work.

Benedict spent the last years of his life putting together his famous Rule, known as the Rule of St. Benedict. His primary purpose was to create unity and formalize discipline. The Rule is comprised of 73 short chapters and presents both spiritual guidance on how to live a life on earth centered on Jesus Christ and also has directives on administrative guidelines on how to run a monastery.

The Rule of St. Benedict was adopted by the majority of monasteries in western Christendom, and The Middle Ages became known as the Benedictine Centuries. Pope Benedict XVI said, “With his life and work, St. Benedict—–helped Europe emerge from the “dark night of history” that followed the fall of the Roman Empire.

St. Benedict died on March 21, 547, 40 days after his twin sister Scholastica. The brother and sister are buried together at Monte Cassino, south of Rome. This is the site of the first Benedictine Abbey.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2020


Known as Henry the Emperor and Henry the Exuberant his greatest title is that of Saint Henry

Henry the Emperor                                  public domain

By Larry Peterson

There are many saints named Henry, but the greatest of them all may well be King  Henry II. Besides being a faithful and just king, Henry was one of the great supporters of the Benedictine Order. He had wanted to be a Benedictine but his destiny was to become king. As king, he built numerous monasteries and restored others during his reign. More than a thousand years later, Pope St. Pius X declared Henry the patron saint of all the Oblates of the Benedictine Order. So who was St. Henry II, aka  Henry the Exuberant; Henry the Emperor, Henry the Good, and Henry the Pious?

Henry was born in 972 and would be the oldest of four children. His father, the Duke of Bavaria, (also known as Henry the Quarrelsome), had a bit of a temper and had revolted against two previous emperors. This caused him to spend a lot of time in exile. Consequently, young Henry was raised by St. Wolfgang, the bishop of Ratisbon (Regensburg). The bishop baptized him and dedicated himself to Henry’s upbringing, instilling virtue and discipline into the young man he knew would one day be king. Wolfgang sent Henry to the cathedral school at Hildesheim, where he seriously considered becoming a priest. That would not happen.

In 995, Henry’s father died, and he succeeded him as  Duke of Bavaria. Soon after, he met and married Cunegundes, a holy woman who he knew God had sent his way. Henry and Cunegundes observed perfect chastity throughout their married lives, and their combined love and devotion to their subjects were unparalleled.

Then in January of 1002, his cousin Otto III, who had become a Holy Roman Emperor, died in Rome. Henry, who was on his way to Rome to help Otto regain control of Italy, managed to get control of the insignia of Otto’s office and, with some help from friends in high places, secured his election and was crowned King of Germany.

Henry was indeed a church reformer. Using the bishops to secure his position as king, he was determined to rule for God’s greater glory. Trained with respect and a healthy fear of God, he proved that a good king could be a heavenly gift. Henry prayed often, meditated upon the law of God, and never allowed himself to become a prisoner of the grandeur that came with being the king.

Henry turned again to reclaiming Italy. He drove out the anti-pope who had claimed the papacy and brought Benedict VIII back to Rome. Two years later, he claimed the title, King of Italy. In 1014, Henry was crowned Holy Roman Emperor by Pope Benedict VIII in St. Peter’s Basilica

Henry’s custom when he arrived in any town was to find a church dedicated to Our Lady and spend the night there. The church he stayed in was Saint Mary Major. Henry said that he saw the “Sovereign and Eternal Priest-Child Jesus” enter the sanctuary to say Mass. He said St. Lawrence and St. Vincent assisted Him.

Henry continued that countless saints filled the church and that after the Gospel an angel was sent by Our Lady to give Henry the scared book to kiss. The angel touched Henry lightly on his thigh and said, “Accept this sign of God’s love for your chastity and your justice.” From that moment on, King Henry always walked with a limp.

Henry’s support for moral reforms began with what was known as the Cluniac Reforms. These reforms affected not only monastic life but the life of the entire church. It helped the church fight simony (the buying of church goods and positions) and promoted clerical celibacy. In 1022 he and Pope Benedict VIII presided over the Council of Pavia, and published seven canons against clerical concubinage. He restored episcopal sees and founded the diocese of Bamburg. He also was instrumental in having the Creed introduced to Sunday Mass.

In 1024 Henry lay on his death bed with his wife and her elderly parents by his side. Henry lifted her hand toward her parents and said, “a virgin still, as a virgin, he had received her from Christ.” He gave St. Cunegundes back to her parents. Then he closed his eyes and died.

St. Henry II was canonized by Pope Eugene III in 1146. He is the patron saint of  the Benedictine Oblates, and his feast day is on July 13.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2020


Humility—What is it? Where is it? Who has it? How do we attain it? Let’s ask St. Benedict

Pride & Humility               cslewisinstitute..org

By Larry Peterson

What is Humility? The dictionary defines it as;  noun“modest opinion or estimate of one’s own importance, rank, etc.

The opposite of humility is pride. Pride is defined as;  noun high or inordinate opinion of one’s own dignity, importance, merit, or superiority, whether as cherished in the mind or as displayed in bearing, conduct, etc.

Apparently, in this modern, self-absorbed world the Pride factor has taken over. There used to be a slogan that said, “Sticks and stones can break your bones, but names can never hurt you.” It seems that slogan has been thrown into the dustbin of antiquity. The new slogan seems to be, “That was offensive. I demand an apology.” (or something like that).

It seems that more than half of the human race smothers itself to death with self-absorption. This condition may warrant a journey back in time to visit one of the greatest of Catholic saints; his name is St. Benedict of Nursia. Benedict’s work was so important in the evangelization of most of Europe that in 1964, Pope St. Paul VI, proclaimed St. Benedict the Patron Saint of Europe.

Benedict authored the Benedictine Rule. Included in these rules are the Twelve Steps of Humility. Let us see what this saint has to say about humility. Since Benedict wrote in detail about each step, what follows will be a brief synopsis of each one.

Benedict introduced his Twelve Steps with this preface;  Luke 14:11 “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled, and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.”

How to be Humble:

  • Step one: The Fear of God  Man must keep the fear of God always before his eyes, and never forget His commandments. The fear of God means reverence for God, and by offending God, we offend ourselves.
  • Step 2: Not My Will, but Yours o Lord: from John 6:38. This means to be humble we must avoid taking pleasure in our own wants and desires but always strive to do God’s will before all else.
  • Step 3: He was obedient even unto death: Philippians 2:8. Humility requires us to be obedient to authority which includes our parents, our priest, lawful authority, etc.
  • Step 4: Embrace Suffering Patiently and ObedientlyFor he that will save his life shall lose it: and he that shall lose his life for my sake, shall find it.” (Matthew 16:24-25)
  • Step 5: Confess our sins and faults This means we should regularly confess our sins to a priest through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
  • Step 6: Be content with lowliness We should accept that we are sinful and frail and when left to our selves we are not much but to God we are of precious value so much so that he suffered and died for us.
  • Step 7: Understand our Interior Mediocrity It is a blessing that you have humbled me so that I can learn Your commandments” (Psalm 119:71, 73)
  • Step 8: To Keep the Rule This is to remind the Benedictines to keep the Rule of their Order. It reminds us to keep the rules of Holy Mother Church.
  • Step 9: Silence and Solitude We should always avoid speaking ill of others and try to embrace silence and solitude whenever God provides it for us.
  • Step 10: Keep Your Peace in Times of Laughter This pertains to us laughing and making fun of others, something we should never do.
  • Step 11: Speak Calmly and Modestly We should train our tongue so that the words we speak are foremost, pleasing to God and never
  • Step 12: Everlasting Humility and Meekness We should strive to live our lives, day and night, by bearing whatever problems or adversities we are experiencing thereby allowing God’s kindness and gentleness to shine through us.

Cardinal Rafael Merry del Val was Secretary of State to Pope St. Pius X. He wrote the famous Litany of Humility which can be found at this link.  We might pray that more people embrace the gift of humility. We certainly need more of it.