Monday, October 10, 2011

When the World had Darkened

It was pretty bad when St. Benedict's own monks tried to poison him.
Under the leadership of St. Spes, who died in the year 510, one of these communities settled not far from Norcia. It is highly probable that Benedict, who was born around 480, knew these originally Syrian cenobites, who were joined by more and more local inhabitants. Rather than join this community, the young Benedict was first of all sent to Rome for studies. Who knows how the history of the Church and the western world would have developed if he had not been confronted there with the excesses of outright political, moral, and spiritual decline. Firstly, he sought refuge with ascetics in the Sabine Mountains; then he withdrew for several years as a cave dweller; all this, before the call of the monks of Vicovaro befell him, where they wanted him installed as Abbot—and showed themselves to be extremely ungrateful. Because his prescriptions appeared to them to be too strict, they attempted to poison the newly installed Abbot—but the poison, in the form of a snake, escaped from his cup before Benedict was able to drink from it.

Something similar also happened to him with another community in Subiaco, where he led his brother monks on the basis of the strict rule of Pachomius. Perhaps it was these experiences that led him finally to compose his own, balanced “Regula Benedicti”—and in so doing founded Western monasticism and the Benedictine monastic culture. These monasteries were “focal points of the highest culture, of spiritual zeal, of the art of living, of readiness for social action—in a word, a network of centers of highly developed civilization that stood out from the agitated floods of barbarism surrounding them on all sides. St. Benedict is without any doubt the father of Europe. The Benedictines, his sons, are the fathers of European civilization.” (quoted from Grégoire, Moulin, Oursel: Die Kultur der Klöster [The Culture of Monasteries]) (Read entire article.)

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