When the College of Cardinals chose Josef Cardinal Ratzinger to be the new Pope after the death of Pope John Paul II, Cardinal Ratzinger chose the name of Benedict as his papal name. Benedict XVI. So today, the feast of Saint Benedict, is his name day, the feast of one of the patron saints of the continent of Europe. Saint Benedict is also the father of all religious life in the western world, and therefore all of us who have professed religious vows look to him as a special person in our lives.
Back in the 400s, as the Roman Empire in the west was crumbling due to a number of factors, a young man was born in central Italy who, in his youth, went to Rome for an education. But Rome was in a deplorable condition as civilization there was falling apart and chaos was taking over. The young man—Benedict—sought solitude to be able to pray and study and immerse himself in the Christian, Catholic faith which he treasured. He went to a place east of Rome called Subiaco—a rough, mountainous place where he lived as a hermit for a time until others joined him in his secluded life of prayer and study. They outgrew the Subiaco area, more vertical than horizontal, and so Benedict went farther south along the way toward Naples where he settled on a hill called Monte Cassino. There he built a monastery and wrote a rule for the government of his monks. The Rule of Saint Benedict is very probably the most influential document ever produced by Christianity other than the New Testament itself. He wrote it about the year 530. Now, fifteen centuries later, it is still the basis of Benedictine life throughout the world, and has been the rule of life of thousands of monks, nuns, and active religious and laity down through the ages. From the beginning of Benedictine life in approximately 530 until about the year 1000, the Benedictine religious community was the only organized religious life in the western world. They had at least a 500-year head start on the rest of us—Carthusians, Norbertines, Dominicans, Franciscans, Carmelites, Jesuits, Daughters of Charity, Sisters of Mercy, etc. who came later.
At the beginning of his Rule, Saint Benedict tells us that anyone is welcome in his monasteries who is truly seeking God. That is a beautiful concept: TRULY SEEKING GOD. Ask yourself often: Am I truly seeking God? He also says in his rule, Let absolutely nothing be preferred to Christ. Again, we should ask ourselves, Am I giving Christ the number 1 priority in my life and in all that I do? Do I embrace whatever leads me to Christ, and reject whatever alienates me from him? Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God Bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.
Note: This message was composed some years ago