Posted by: fvbcdm | July 11, 2017

Feast of Saint Benedict (11 Jul 2017)

On July 11th, the Church celebrates a giant among her children.  I speak of Saint Benedict, the founder of Benedictine life in the Church.  Not only was he a giant in terms of spirituality but also in terms of the history of Western Civilization.  He was from central Italy, near Rome, and was born just about the time that the great Roman Empire was crumbling under the weight of its own age, its preponderance of slaves, and the incursions of the Huns, the Vandals, and other predators from the north and east, who came to loot and plunder what had been the glory of Rome.  Government collapsed.  The army disintegrated, and law and order disappeared. Total confusion took over the political and economic landscape.  Life in the cities became nearly impossible.

For a serious young Catholic like Benedict, this was no way to exist.  So he went off into the mountains east of Rome to live as a hermit and devote himself to prayer, study, and the things of God.  Others followed him, and soon he found himself the leader of a band of men who wished to live by the Gospel, apart from the ordinary occupations of humankind.  More and More came to follow him.  He wrote a rule by which they could live in community.  This document—the Rule of Saint Benedict—became one of the most influential documents of the Western Church after the scriptures themselves.  When his group of followers grew too large for one religious community, he sent some of them hither and yon, thus spreading his concept of religious life throughout Italy, and then the rest of Europe, and in due time, to the newly discovered lands in Africa, Asia, and the Americas.

From these Benedictine monks, many popes were chosen, archbishops, bishops, writers, scientists, spiritual directors.  The Benedictines were the only religious order for men and women for about 500 years, from their foundation, just about 500 A.D. until the end of that millennium when other orders began to be founded.  Benedictine life was already 700 years old when Saints Dominic and Francis began their religious orders, and it was 1000 years old when Saint Ignatius Loyola founded the Jesuits.  It’s a glorious history of service to the Church, an extension of the Kingdom of our Lord.  Here in the Archdiocese of New Orleans, we are fortunate to have the Benedictine Abbey of Saint Joseph near Covington, Louisiana and to have Benedictine sisters teaching at a number of our schools.  If you want to learn a fascinating aspect of Catholic history, do some reading in Benedictine history, which is now a millennium and a half old!  Thank you for allowing God to love you, God bless you.

Note:  Father Brown composed this message some years ago.  Please pray for the souls of the faithful departed, including Father Brown.

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